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Toronto FC’s final preseason match a complete write-off

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The Reds lose 4-1 to the Chicago Fire to close out their trip to Florida.

MLS: Toronto FC vs Chicago Fire Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Not gonna lie, I lost interest in this one pretty quickly.

No one sensible is going to worry too much about Toronto FC’s final preseason game, but let’s not try to polish a turd - it wasn’t very good.

The Reds lost 4-1 to the Chicago Fire as part of the Tampa Bay Rowdies’ Suncoast Invitational, with the American club racing into a 3-0 lead in the first half to put the match to bed.

Having apparently originally planned to push TFC’s strongest XI through the best part of the 90 minutes of this game, Greg Vanney had changed his mind by half-time and hooked nearly everyone at the interval.

MLS: Toronto FC vs Chicago Fire Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago looked far more interested in the outcome of the game, quite frankly, with TFC struggling to summon up the energy for a third game in a week at the end of an undoubtedly gruelling preseason.

The Fire are coming off a disastrous season and have brought in a number of new players, and as a result probably have more work to do at this stage to gel their group. They kept their starters on the field for longer and they all looked keen to make an impression, with Dax McCarty playing like Dax McCarty does and Nemanja Nikolic promising up front.

Another new arrival, Juninho, opened the scoring with a superb 25-yard shot that flew past Toronto goalkeeper Clint Irwin.

The pressing on the Reds’ part was not great, but the midfielder still had plenty of work to do and did it in style. When Irwin then blundered into McCarty to concede a penalty, any motivation Toronto had for this fixture was pretty much eliminated by Nikolic’s emphatic spot kick.

MLS: Toronto FC vs Chicago Fire Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

No one was interested in mounting a rousing comeback in a meaningless game at that point and while Toronto dominated the possession, Chicago continued to look the more dangerous side on the break.

They added a third when David Accam found space on the left to play a neat one-two with Nikolic and cross for Michael de Leeuw, who was left with a simple finish.

Armando Cooper, one of Toronto’s better performers, had the Reds’ best chance in the first half but could not bend a shot on the outside of his boot around goalkeeper Jorge Bava.

Eight changes followed at half-time and a couple more later on and the second half was mostly a procession, with De Leeuw adding a well-taken second before Tosaint Ricketts converted from the penalty spot after Tsubasa Endoh had been fouled by Bava.

MLS: Toronto FC vs Chicago Fire Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

A slight concern for Toronto is the state of their defence going into the season opener at Real Salt Lake. Eriq Zavaleta sat the game out with illness, while Chris Mavinga has returned to France temporarily for the birth of his child and is lacking preseason minutes.

If Zavaleta is not fit to play next Saturday, Clement Simonin could be in line to start assuming he actually signs a contract this week. That would be some rise for a player who did not feature much even for TFC II last season due to injuries, though Vanney did throw Endoh in due to similar circumstances this time last year.

Otherwise, an optimistic reaction to this match would be to note that at least Toronto might have shaken the rust off before it actually matters. If anyone in the squad needed a reminder, the slog of the MLS regular season is not always going to be as fun as last year’s wonderful playoff ride.