Toronto FC's chances of defending their MLS Cup title took a major hit after a 4-2 home loss to LAFC on Saturday night at BMO Field.
The defeat drops Toronto nine points behind Montreal for the sixth-and-final postseason spot in the Eastern Conference. With only seven games remaining in its season, Toronto has virtually no margin for error if it is to avoid missing the playoffs a year after hoisting the MLS Cup.
The win elevated LAFC to second place in the Western Conference, enhancing the expansion side's chances of a playoff appearance in its first season of play.
A bit of luck and then a bit of quality resulted in a brace for LAFC striker Carlos Vela. In the 23rd minute, a shot from Diego Rossi first deflected off the foot of Toronto defender Justin Morrow, then off Vela's upper arm. The two redirections left goalkeeper Clint Irwin unable to react in time to stop the ball from rolling inside the near post, and Vela was credited with one of the most unusual goals of his career.
Vela's second goal came in stoppage-time on a very well-placed shot from a tough angle on the right side that bounced off the crossbar and over the line.
While LAFC (46 points) was perhaps a bit fortunate to be ahead 1-0 after the opening 45 minutes, the lead was quickly extended when Rossi and Lee Nguyen both scored within the opening five minutes of the second half.
Toronto (27 points) outshot LAFC by a 21-14 margin in the game, though it didn't get on the board until the 74th minute when a streaking Jozy Altidore converted a pass from Sebastian Giovinco. Altidore scored again in extra time to cut Toronto's deficit to one goal, giving the home side some late hope before Vela put the game away moments later.
Giovinco tallied eight shots in the game, including a long-range effort from beyond the box in the 76th minute that deflected off the post. Earlier in the game, Giovinco nearly scored a highlight-reel goal on a bicycle kick attempt that required a leaping save from LAFC goalkeeper Tyler Miller.