After two games at home, Toronto FC travelled to Chicago to face the Fire at Soldier field. This game was an absolute must-win for the reds, if they were to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Both teams came into this one towards the bottom of the conference, with Chicago sitting in 12th and Toronto in 13th. TFC are in better form though, as they are unbeaten in 3 games against very solid opposing sides. Historically, Toronto has been good against Chicago as well and are unbeaten in 11 games between the two teams.
Javier Perez was forced to make a late change as fullback Justin Morrow was originally in the XI, but was unable to start. Luke Singh took his place at left back, with Auro being placed on the bench.
The reds kicked off the first half, and the contest got underway at soldier field.
Just 90 seconds in, Yeferson Soteldo scored his second goal for the club. Priso played a nice pass in to Endoh, and his heavy touch fell right to Soteldo. The Venezuelan finished the chance perfectly, and put TFC up 1-0 very early on in the game. It was very nice to see Toronto being the ones scoring early.
He slots it home BEAUTIFULLY! pic.twitter.com/hx6pDOPU5O— Waking the Red (@WakingtheRed) July 25, 2021
In the 10th minute, Gonzalez made a horrible error, but was bailed out by Bono, who made a great save—his first of many. Singh cleaned up nicely with a good bit of awareness to make the clearance.
Bono was forced into making another good save in the 18th minute, after a good spell of possession from Chicago ended up in a shot on goal.
Later in the 18th minute, the reds countered well, and Endoh found himself through on goal, but did not have the pace to outrun the Chicago defenders. After a VAR check, Navarro luckily stayed on the pitch, as the replay showed the defender fouling Endoh to nullify the counter attack. It could easily have been a red, as the Japanese winger was denied a clear goal scoring opportunity and Navarro was the last man back.
Throughout the early stages of the first half, Luke Singh was allowing too many crosses into the box for Bono’s liking, and the keeper made him aware of that. These chances were consistently threatening, and Bono was well within his rights to demand more of Singh—a natural centre back who was forced to play fullback as a result of a flurry of injuries and others away on national team duty.
More danger coming Bono’s way in the 31st minute, after Chicago created another clear cut chance from a deflected cross that found its way to the top of the six yard box. Bono made a good save and did well to smother the potential rebound, but the Chicago player should have found the back of the net.
Just one minute later, the Fire missed another sitter, and Toronto, once again, found themselves lucky to be in the lead.
Three minutes later in the 35th, Bono made another good save after Singh allowed another cross into the box. It seemed as if a Chicago goal was imminent.
37th minute, and the Fire came close once again. A scary shot from outside the box left Bono rooted to the spot, but it just crept wide of the post. Getting into the locker room up a goal was not looking very likely for the reds.
On the other end, Soteldo continued to dance whenever he got on the ball, and was almost rewarded for his skill in the 39th minute. His shifty feet created enough space to get a shot off, and in turn, forced a good save from the Chicago keeper.
Not long after that, the undisputed man of the match made a great save after ANOTHER cross got into the box from Luke Singh’s side. Chicago should have been up at this point, and Toronto were very lucky to still be up by a goal.
At the half, Chicago were dominating the game in terms of chances created, and they were outperforming Toronto 2.1 to 0.5 on xG (expected goals). Their seven shots on target were almost all quality chances, and if the second half was anything like the first, it could have gotten ugly.
To start the second half, Jozy Altidore and Patrick Mullins came in for Dom Dwyer and Endoh.
Early in the half, Soteldo almost created another goal, but instead of taking the shot himself, he attempted to square the ball to Altidore, but failed to find the striker with the pass.
Unfortunately, a very solid performance from Ralph Priso was cut short by an injury. The midfielder went down with what appeared to be a painful cramp, and was unable to continue past the 62nd minute. The versatile Nick Deleon replaced him and immediately took up the right back spot, which pushed Delgado into midfield.
To make a bad day at the office even worse, Luke Singh pulled up with a cramp in the 68th minute. He hobbled off the pitch, but eventually made his way back on, and continued to allow dangerous crosses into the heart of the box.
Against the run of play, the seemingly impossible happened in the 76th minute when TFC took advantage of a counter attack in swift fashion, and doubled their lead. After another darting run forward by Soteldo, Mullins would find a wide open Deleon, who buried his shot across the keeper to make it 2-0 in favour of Toronto. A deserving score line? Who cares! 2-0 for the reds!
Less than a minute after, however, the Fire finally capitalized off of a cross from Singh’s side in the 77th minute. Mavinga failed to make the clearance, and the Fire uncharacteristically made use of the mistake.
After struggling to move for a while due to his injury, Singh was taken off after a very long game for the young defender. Okello came in to replace him in the 81st minute.
Chicago came close to equalizing in the 82nd minute, but after a header right down the middle, Bono held on to ensure a goal was not scored.
Toronto survived the last eight minutes of the game, as well as the six minutes of added time. Chicago threw all they had at TFC, but Bono had an absolutely amazing performance.
The Toronto keeper had a career high 13 saves, and kept out Chicago’s extremely high 3.45 xG. Bono’s shot stopping ability earned him the man of the match award, which was entirely deserving considering he single handedly won Toronto the three points.
A very scrappy win with a makeshift backline and lots of absences, but TFC showed some amazing character to get their third win of the season. Getting dominated in shots and xG does not matter, as the reds steal three points from Chicago to aid their late push for that final playoff spot.
Regardless of the manner in which the game was won, the game was won. Wins like this are necessary in a season such as this, and hopefully this team can continue to pick up points by capitalizing on this momentum.
Under TFC’s new ‘interim’ head coach, Perez has picked up 8 out of a possible 12 points, including two wins. For context, Toronto picked up just five points in the entire Chris Armas era.
Perez has the lads picking up results, and there seems to be light at the end of this tunnel. An exciting finish to the season could definitely be on the cards, and hopefully Toronto has enough in the tank to salvage something from this ill-fated campaign.