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Slowing the Burn: Toronto FC tie Chicago Fire

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Toronto FC partially extinguished their burning playoff hopes with their first positive result since August 23rd in a 1-1 draw against the Chicago Fire. But the team's playoff situation is hardly any better than it was this time last week.

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

One thing that can be learned from watching Toronto FC is that they do not like invitations very much. Once again, a team sat back and gave Toronto the opportunity to take the game. At least tonight, when they needed it the most, they partially accepted, drawing 1-1 with the Chicago Fire to at least keep themselves in the immediate conversation for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Dwayne De Rosario's late goal was the by-product of what was nearly 70 minutes of meaningless possession from Toronto FC, after their apparent allergy to it saw them go down a goal just eleven minutes into the match. Then Chicago just sat back, and invited Toronto to do what they have failed to all season, break down a team who put the majority of their players behind the ball.

In this instance, what the term "deserved" is difficult to quantify for Toronto FC. In a literal sense they deserved to win this match, a result of a poor call that cost Gilberto a personally well-deserved winner that would have been massive for Toronto. In a more optical sense, it's hard to say that Toronto performed in a way where they would have been favoured to win.

The last twenty minutes were better, but still not good enough. The way Chicago played for the majority of the match was proof as to why Toronto FC really did need the full points in this one. At the very least that De Rosario goal should have been a game winner for Toronto FC, instead of the tying goal. Really, top form TFC would not have left this one to the last minute.

Instead, it was Joe Bendik who held the club in the match. With the mental state of this team as of late going down two would have completely disintegrated any chance of coming back. With the rest of his team, especially the men directly in front of him, crumpling at the seams, Bendik has been superb as of late. His double save on a second half Chicago penalty, also a bad call, was amongst his best this season. That is saying something.

On the other side of things, every position for Toronto has had its turn performing poorly this season. While the defending has been bad, the majority of the blame as of late can be shifted to a pieced together midfield. While Michael Bradley has been far from great lately, it seems like the piece beside him as of late that has really let the team down. On this occasion it was Kyle Bekker, who was decent in his last outing for TFC, and was even better for Canada. Add in a sub-par Dominic Oduro performance and it wasn't a great outing for the middle of Toronto's park.

This led to Gilberto being essentially isolated for the majority of the match and therefore few offensive options for Toronto. In this Greg Vanney got his choices incorrect, Toronto had far too many defensive players on the field against a team that they really should have attacked. With Daniel Lovitz, Dwayne De Rosario and Luke Moore on the bench he certainly had options.

At least Vanney understood what was going wrong, and addressed it in enough time for the offensive players he inserted to do something. De Rosario had a lot of poor touches, but only because he was on the ball so much and seemed one of the few who were concerned about saving this team's season. If the injury problems continue, he may have earned himself a starting position.

Another question that seems to have gone unanswered is the existence of Bright Dike. The man seems to be missing in action when Toronto sure could use an option like him to wake what has been a dormant offense. The issue is this is based off his play from last season, and therefore would be a risk to use him this season. But nothing is working at this point, so risks seems like a decent policy at this point.

As for the team's playoff hopes, they aren't pretty to say the least. Losing two points hardly helped in that regard. Toronto now sit in seventh, three points out of the last playoff spot which is currently held by the Columbus Crew. Points per game wise, the situation is a little brighter as Toronto are 1.26 to 1.32 for Columbus. This is courtesy of the fact that TFC have played one less game than all of the teams above them.

But the form has to come now, a failure to win next week against Chivas USA and Toronto are all but eliminated from the playoff race. The Portland Timbers and Los Angeles Galaxy lay in waiting, salivating at the prospect of playing a wounded TFC.

Essentially, if any more invitations lay in the waiting for Toronto FC, they had best accept them. Because their invitation to the MLS playoffs is about to get declined on their behalf.