Fire’s afternoon gone with the wind.Toronto FC, conspiring with the elements, got a second-half brace from Chad Barrett on their way to a 4-1 thumping of the Chicago Fire. The swirling Lake Ontario winds made their mark on the match as much as anybody on the field, as the cool Toronto afternoon saw a ball with a mind of its own at times. Nick Labrocca and O’Brian White also scored for the Reds, while Logan Pause replied for the visitors.
The match got underway rather uneventfully with neither team finding any purchase with their attempted passes in the midfield. As a result, possession was fleeting and the frustration for both clubs was obvious, but understood, as the waves of wind wreaked havoc.
Maksim Usamov was lucky to escape a booking in the 8th, when he grabbed hold of Brian McBride and hauled him down 50 yards out. A foul was awarded, but the ensuing free kick was deflected and did little to trouble Stefan Frei.
Foreshadowing what was to happen only minutes later, Nick Labrocca, from well out, sent a ball into the Fire box. Seemingly, it was an attempted service, but the wind carried the ball right into the arms of Andrew Dykstra, with the ‘keeper doing well to react. He wouldn’t have the same luck, though, in the 24th minute.
After a spell of TFC offensive movement down low, the Fire seemed to have the situation under control, when Tim Ward was able to clear. The clearance was cut off by Labrocca at the touchline. The former Rapids man then sent in a cross as his mates began to flood the box, but the wind had other ideas. Almost immediately from the moment the ball was struck, it hit a gust of wind, carrying it over the heads of his intended targets and Dykstra, who was coming out to meet it, curling into the back of the net for Labrocca's first goal in a TFC sweater.
The rookie keeper was visibly irritated by his misplaying of the ball, but he was hardly at fault here. Julian de Guzman was credited with an assist on the play, only because the lakeside wind couldn’t receive one.
The Fire attempted to level matters shortly thereafter. Dan Gargan was adjudged to have impeded Patrick Nyarko, who was working his way down the left side. The resulting free kick by Marco Pappa, taken from just left of the box, took a wicked bend, surprising Frei, but the sophomore did a nice job to quickly respond, parrying the ball out of harm’s way.
It was then Dykstra’s turn to dazzle late in the half, when Chad Barrett got off a hard, clean strike only feet outside of the Chicago box, but the Virginia Commonwealth man made a headlong save, directing the ball out of play.
The home side doubled their advantage almost immediately after the restart. A nice passing play saw Barrett come down the right to find substitute O’Brian White on the edge of the box. White went wide to Dwayne De Rosario, who passed the ball right back to the lanky Jamaican. Although not making full contact with the return, White was able to fend off his marker, CJ Brown, and poked the ball just over the line with his sliding right foot.
The Reds weren’t able to enjoy their two-goal advantage for long, though, as the men from the Second City were able to get on the board thanks to a stunning strike. After TFC did well to clear a Fire corner, Logan Pause got a hold of the ball about 50 yards out. Settling it down, the recently capped American international unleashed a gorgeous volley into the top tight corner of the TFC goal. This was highlight reel quality from the UNC graduate.
TFC would restore the lead in the 65th, after a great individual effort from White. Streaking down the right and twice eluding William Conde, White would slide a crisp pass past Brown to an oncoming Barrett, who made no mistake with a left-footed tap-in, making it 3-1 with his first of the season. Barrett was not done for the day, however, as the two-goal advantage quickly became three.
With the Fire down low on a spell of attack, TFC caught their hosts on the counter. Captain De Rosario sent in a beautifully timed through ball past four Fire players, springing Barrett in alone on Dykstra. The former Fire man then bulged the twine for the second time in only four minutes, icing the match at 4-1.
Chicago stays on the road, heading to Kansas City next Saturday for a date with the Wizards. TFC will venture away from BMO to Vancouver for a midweek encounter with the Whitecaps in a Canadian Championship match, before checking into the Home Depot Center a week from today to take on the Western Conference-leading Galaxy and the red hot Edson Buddle.
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