TORONTO — Sebastian Giovinco scored two first-half goals and Toronto FC hung on for a 2-1 victory Wednesday that snapped Orlando City’s four-game win streak.
The visitors, who offered little in the first half, were revitalized by Kaka’s goal just before the break and came out strong in the second. Suddenly Toronto was on the backfoot before a BMO Field crowd of 25,200.
Toronto (4-1-4) switched formation to a back four late in the game to blunt the Orlando attack and stretch its run of wins to three in Greg Vanney’s 100th game (42-36-22) in charge.
Orlando (6-2-0) arrived with the best record in Major League Soccer and riding a four-game win streak during which it had outscored its opposition 7-1.
After a slow start to the season, Giovinco now has five goals — with a pair of two-goal performances in the last three games. Spanish playmaker Victor Vazquez, meanwhile, notched his sixth assist of the season.
Giovinco and strike partner Jozy Altidore have accounted for 10 of Toronto 14 goals this season.
Unlike the Chicago game April 21 when Giovinco threw a tantrum after scoring twice and being substituted with five minutes remaining, there was no misbehaviour from the mercurial Italian who played the full 90 minutes.
Kaka, with his second goal in as many games after missing five matches with a hamstring injury, started the Orlando comeback in first-half stoppage time. Canadian Cyle Larin had chances to add to that total but was unable to convert two excellent chances.
Toronto goalkeeper Alex Bono prevented a tying goal in the 59th minute, somehow diving to claw the ball back before it crossed the goal-line after Larin got a foot to a Carlos Rivas cross.
Larin then misfired in the 67th, somehow unable to get solid contact on another Rivas cross that dropped perfectly for him.
It was a matchup of Eastern powerhouses, who came into the game with just one loss each (to Columbus). But Orlando had taken 18 of a possible 21 points while Toronto, thanks to four ties, had collected just 13 of 24 available.
Toronto scored on its first shot.
Wingback Raheem Edwards ran down a pass on the left flank and then beat defender Scott Sutter before sending in a cross. Altidore got a foot to it and the ball went to Giovinco, who shifted it from his left foot to his right before sending a shot through traffic past a diving Joe Bendik for his fourth of the season. It was also an important strike. Orlando came into the game 6-0-0 when it scored first.
Giovinco struck again in the 38th minute after Altidore found Steven Beitashour wide open on the right. Bendik got a hand to his cross but the ball went to Vazquez. The Spaniard found a nearby Giovinco and the Italian hooked it in from the edge of the six-yard box.
Giovinco now has six goals — and 11 points — in six games against Orlando.
The visitors offered little in attack in the first half with Toronto captain Michael Bradley bossing the midfield.
But Kaka cut the lead on the stroke of halftime, burying a shot high into the goal after some sluggish Toronto defending on a short corner. Larin got the assist, heading the ball to his captain.
Larin had a rough opening for Orlando. He took a Beitashour boot to the midrift in the seventh minute and went down holding his thigh after an aggressive challenge from Bradley in the 15th.
Larin came home tied for second in league scoring with six goals in seven games while Bendik, who played 73 MLS games in three seasons with Toronto, was honoured earlier in the day as MLS player of the month.
Orlando midfielder Will Johnson, another former TFC player, missed out due to illness.
Bendik had to be sharp in the 24th minute, rushing out of his area to get to the ball just before Altidore after Vazquez split open the Orlando defence with a fine through ball.
Bono was perhaps lucky early in the second half when he was yellow-carded in the 50th minute for coming out of his area and impeding Larin as the striker got on the end of a through ball.
Orlando escaped in the 63rd after Altidore, losing his balance, shot just wide off a Giovinco backheel following another beautiful Vazquez pass.
Kaka and Vazquez both gave way to fresh legs in the 65th minute.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press