In a game that would ultimately leave the sides all square with a pair of goals, the Chicago Fire entered the match without key players Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Chris Rolfe even featuring on the substitutes bench. Head Coach Denis Hamlet had his work cut out with a thin roster at his disposal.
Toronto followed up their impressive, but ultimately unproductive outing against the Galaxy needing to secure some sort of result to keep their playoff challenge alive. a strong lineup laced with attacking intent, they looked to record their first away win over Chicago at Toyota Park.
Toronto FC made a good start to the game when a mistake at the back let De Rosario race in and slot the ball past a hapless Jon Busch for a 1-0 lead. Nana Attakora had cleared the ball up the field and it looked like Chicago would pick up the possession but a mix up involving CJ Brown allowed De Rosario a free run towards net. Terrible defending.
Before the Fire could recover from this fifth minute strike a Busch mistake almost allowed De Rosario to score another goal. Busch’s weak punch out came to De Rosario but his shot was blocked. The Canadian stalwart presented a constant menace to the Fire defense as he dragged defenders wide of position with his running. Chad Barrett should have converted a cross at the end of one such run, but the former Chicago player couldn’t find the target with his reconnect.
In the 14th minute Nick Garcia unwittingly chested the ball past Stefan Frei for an own goal. Brian McBride met a hopeful cross and his header lacked the sort of venom to test a keeper. However, Garcia inadvertently redirected the ball as Frei came out to claim it and the ball crept into the back of the net as the defender watched in horror.
A good spell of Fire possession ended with a Justin Mapp shot that narrowly misses the upright. Chicago began to assert more influence on the game as it settled into a pattern. The visitors comfortable playing on the counter attack as the home side enjoyed the bulk of the possession.
A great run down the left from Mike Banner almost saw a deserved finish but McBride’s shot sailed over the bar from the subsequent cross. Chicago continued to play well with Patrick Nyarko, Mapp and Marco Papa getting into some good positions. Toronto played sloppily until half time and over relied on the distribution skills of Julian De Guzman. Amado Guevara was one of the highest offenders by playing the ball to De Guzman instead of taking up the playmaker's role himself. It ended 1-1 at the break with everything to play for.
Toronto started the second half in furious fashion. Ali Gerba released De Rosario, exploiting his pace. His subsequent cross was met by the hard working Chad Barrett who finished beautifully to put Toronto 2-1 up within minutes of the restart. Great goal in contrast to the defensive mistake riddled goals of the first half.
A great cross by Mapp found Nyarko at the near post. However, Frei somehow scrambled his glancing header away for a corner. Chris Cummins made his intentions clear by replacing Ali Gerba with defensive midfielder Carl Robinson in the 62nd minute, clearly indicating a desire to keep the lead.
Another defensive howler almost led to a chance for Guevara. However, Brandon Prideaux was able to breath a huge sigh of relief after his complete miscue did not get punished. This was swiftly followed by Nick Garcia almost getting a brace of own goals, luckily for him his miss kick sailed over the bar when it could have just as easily nestled into the net.
Chicago settled into the Toronto half as the visitors set their defensive stall. Despite the constant pressure, Toronto continued to create the more alarming chances. De Rosario almost finding the net with a probing run and long range effort.
Brian McBride finally got the equalizer with a textbook header in the 78th minute. Mapp sent in a brilliant left footed cross with pinpoint accuracy. Bread and butter for the former Fulham striker as he notched up the sort of goal he was renowned for. Two goals apiece with ten minutes left on the clock; the game was set up for a frantic finish.
With both teams going all out for a winner, the game opened up and the Fire had to rely on Conde to make some important challenges to thwart the visitors. Fire got an excellent chance for the winner with a couple of minutes remaining. Peter Lowry crossed in for Dimitrov, but the substitute could not keep his header down. Having played the three minutes of time added on, Nyarko made a great move down the right and Carr met his cross at the back post with the goal gaping one foot away. However he somehow failed to turn the ball towards goal and the referee belatedly blew the final whistle.
Toronto came away with a deserved point and will play their next two games at home with San Jose visiting BMO field next. They still possess an outside chance of making the playoffs provided they win all three of their remaining games.
Chicago play the Galaxy away in Los Angeles next week; their quest for a supporters shield seems to have dissipated with this result coupled with Columbus’s victory.
Talha Zaheer, Goal.com
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