Head coach Bob Bradley made six changes to Toronto’s starting XI after their 2-1 win on the road in Halifax on Tuesday.
Quentin Westberg started in goal for a second consecutive game, while Alejandro Pozuelo started his first game since May 8th. Jesús Jiménez and Ayo Akinola led the line after they both came on at halftime on Tuesday. Carlos Salcedo came in for Lukas MacNaughton, and Jonathan Osorio started in place of Ralph Priso.
The visitors controlled possession for the opening 10 minutes of the match. Toronto were forced to make a substitution in the 12th minute when Osorio came off with an injury. Jayden Nelson replaced him.
One minute later, the hosts opened the scoring courtesy of Deandre Kerr. Luca Petrasso ran down the left flank with the ball at his feet before finding an unmarked Jiménez. The Spaniard then took a touch before sending a pass to Kerr. The Ajax native then settled the ball on his right foot and let a shot go from inside the box that Fire ‘keeper Gabriel Slonina could not keep out.
TFC had an opportunity to add another in the 25th minute. Akinola controlled the ball and held play up nicely as he sent Pozuelo, who then found his fellow countryman Jiménez. Toronto’s No. 9 put a cross into the box which deflected off a Chicago Fire defender, which prompted Slonina to scramble and parry it out for a corner.
Chicago were close to levelling the match before halftime, as Swiss international Xherdan Shaqiri sent a dangerous cross into the six-yard box, but his teammate could not get to the ball in time.
In the second half, the Fire scored in the 51st minute with a goal from Carlos Terán. A pinpoint Shaqiri cross found Terán, whose header beat Westberg.
Chicago thought they added another in the 55th minute through Jairo Torres, but after a VAR check, the goal was ruled out for offside.
The action continued at both ends of the pitch, this time for Toronto as they bursted forward with Pozuelo and Nelson. A through ball was sent from the DP to the homegrown player, but Nelson’s shot was only able to find the side netting.
Ezra Hendrickson’s side kept mounting the pressure on Toronto as the defence could not convincingly clear the ball from their half.
Kacper Przybyłko then made it 2-1 in the 66th minute. A well struck shot beat Westberg, who was rooted to the spot.
Down but not out, Toronto were given hope a few minutes later. A free kick was initially called in favour of Toronto just outside the opponent’s box, but after a VAR check, the hosts were awarded a penalty, which Pozuelo comfortably converted.
Some crucial saves from Westberg kept the game at two goals apiece moments after Toronto equalized.
Pozuelo made it a brace for himself with a beautifully struck shot in the 78th minute. The midfielder evaded a couple of Chicago players before he wrapped his foot around the ball with enough pace and power to beat Slonina.
This was TFC’s first MLS victory in over a month. These three points will undoubtedly add some confidence to the squad going forward.
In post-game availability, Bob Bradley spoke about the mindset of the team following the result:
“I liked the resilience. Right now as a team we’re trying to develop things, and in the moment we’re relying on the mentality of the group, the determination, the ability to fight through,” said Bradley.
Pozuelo then spoke about his fitness, and also about upcoming matches:
“This is the first time I played this season without any physical pain,” said Pozuelo.
“We need to look forward. The three points is important for the team’s confidence,” said Pozuelo.
Kerr added his thoughts as well:
“This win is massive. We’ve been on a tough stretch, but we’ve been working hard, staying quiet, heads down, and we knew a result would come,” said Kerr.
Toronto FC now turn their attention to the delayed 2020 Canadian Championship final against Forge FC at Tim Hortons Field, which takes place on Saturday, June 4th. Kick-off is set for 7:00 pm EST.