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FT: Toronto FC 2-2 Chicago Fire — CCL fatigue leads to late equalizer

A frustrating finish after a very promising start.

MLS: Chicago Fire at Toronto FC John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

What is it with Toronto FC and crushing disappointment in the final minute? That’s a very unfortunate result for the Reds as they come away with a 2-2 draw after dominating the Chicago Fire for much of the game.

The Reds will be very unhappy with that, especially after missing a few dangerous chances in the second half. Sebastian Giovinco’s disallowed goal early in the first half would’ve changed things considerably, as well.

It’s clear that TFC are pretty exhausted after the long CONCACAF Champions League campaign. Their defending pretty much crumbled in the last 15 minutes or so, as tired legs took hold.

Anyway, on to the next one. TFC move to four points on the year, which puts them level with the Seattle Sounders (heh) for last place in MLS. The Reds are next in action when they play the Philadelphia Union next Friday, May 5.

94’ — This is a cruel sport.

93’ Toronto FC 2-2 Chicago Fire — Ugh. I suppose it was inevitable, but Alan Gordon scores in stoppage time to draw the visitors even. A very unfortunate finish to a game in which TFC dominated for the most part.

91’ — WHAT?!?! Chicago should 100% be level right now, but they must be cursed. Bono made the initial save from a point-blank header, then reached back and somehow got a hand on the ball (with some help from Liam Fraser) directly over the goal line. Then, when it bounced back out, Nikolic fired it at the empty net and hit the crossbar. Chicago will be kicking themselves for that.

87’ — Very concerning sight for TFC; Alex Bono can’t seem to stop clutching his right side after a rough collision on the corner of his box. Toronto FC have made three subs already, so they’ll be praying that Bono can make it to the end of this match, at least.

81’ — Liam Fraser will make his first appearance at BMO Field, coming in to replace Ager Aketxe. A decent performance from Aketxe, but perhaps not what TFC need in the last 10 minutes as they try to close this out. Vanney must have a lot of faith in Fraser.

80’ — Some tired defending from Toronto FC and the ball comes across to Chicago’s Jon Bakero, who really should have scored that from the corner of the six-yard box. It remains 2-1.

74’ — Double substitution for TFC. Jason Hernandez and Tosaint Ricketts come in for Victor Vazquez and Nico Hasler. Hell of a game from Vazquez, but they probably don’t want to be overextending him here.

70’ Toronto FC 2-1 Chicago Fire — Finally, some clarity about VAR: it’s only used in ways that don’t benefit TFC. Kidding, of course, but I thought at least one of the Fire players was offside there as Schweinsteiger scored a header within the six-yard box. The visitors are within one with 20 to play.

67’ — Things have slowed down considerably in this half. TFC have still had the majority of the chances, but nothing particularly dangerous. Both Ager Aketxe and Victor Vazquez have been doing some very exciting things, though; Vazquez has made a couple lethal passes and Aketxe seems to be running the show in the left half-space.

HT: That’s a half Greg Vanney will probably be happy with. Two (almost three or four) goals, and nothing conceded. The Reds got a bit lucky on a couple occasions, especially with Basti’s flubbed penalty, but still a very good effort from Toronto FC to return to MLS play.

44’ — Oh, dear. The ball falls to Giovinco all alone in front of goal, but I think he expected to be called offside, because his finish was very poor. Flag stayed down, but unfortunately Seba couldn’t capitalize.

37’ — Yet another VAR decision goes against Toronto FC, as Ashtone Morgan gets called after the fact for an iffy foul in the box (unfortunate, accidental, but still probably a foul). Bastian Schweinsteiger steps up, but BONO MAKES THE SAVE! He dives perfectly to the lower left corner. That’s got to be at least one demon exorcised.

30’ — Alex Bono makes a great point-blank save on Collier after TFC got caught up on a 2-on-1. The lead remains.

22’ Toronto FC 2-0 Chicago Fire — Victor Vazquez is a Red! The Spaniard brings down a lobbed pass from Bradley close to the right edge of the box, and he chips it all the way over everyone into the back of the net.

11’ — Sebastian Giovinco scored a goal on the counter... or so we thought. This one is called back for offside, but still very good to see how easy it was for Seba and Vazquez to carve up Chicago’s defence.

8’ Toronto FC 1-0 Chicago Fire — Osorio! Sebastian Giovinco brings the ball down brilliantly along the right side, and knocks it across goal straight into the path of Oso, who finishes it easily. The officials did review it for offside, but seemed happy with it. Fantastic start to the match for the Reds, and they’re rewarded for it!

1’ — Here we go!

Lineups are posted below! Looks like an interesting one for Toronto FC; Michael Bradley and Gregory van der Wiel back at centre-back, and both Ager Aketxe and Victor Vazquez line up in midfield. Sebastian Giovinco may be the lone striker, unless Jonathan Osorio is pushing forward with him.

This afternoon is the beginning of our healing process. Toronto FC are back in familiar territory, BMO Field, to take on the Chicago Fire in a bog-standard MLS match, with no other obligations for the first time this year. It should be fun, as the Reds try and get back on track in league play after the CONCACAF Champions League finished up on Wednesday.

The effects of that competition are still lingering, of course. Emotional toll aside, TFC are still dealing with heavy injuries as they head into this contest. We certainly won’t see the reserve side Greg Vanney employed against the Colorado Rapids and Houston Dynamo, but I doubt it’ll be a fully first-choice lineup.

Chicago are a hard team to read at the moment. They have two wins, a draw, and three losses so far this season, putting them seventh in the Eastern Conference. Last year, they finished third in the East with 55 points, but they lost 3-1 to TFC both home and away.

One thing the Fire can do (although they’ve struggled with it this year) is score. Only TFC and Atlanta United scored more than Chicago’s 61 goals last season. Their potent attack features defending Golden Boot winner Nemanja Nikolic, who scored 24 in 2017 and already has five goals in 2018.

They’ve also got a straight-up Fußballgott in their lineup in Bastian Schweinsteiger. He’s the kind of player that, were I a casual Toronto soccer fan, I would buy tickets to see. Schweinsteiger is a special player who has the ability to absolutely take over a game and put a lethal pass through to anyone — he’s kind of like Victor Vazquez, but more defensively capable, and a LOT more German. Fire coach Veljko Paunovic has actually had him playing centre-back a few times this season in a back three, because I think his side has been crippled by injuries at the back, just like TFC.

As a Man United fan, I lost my mind when Schweini signed at Old Trafford. He’s undoubtedly my favourite MLS player outside of Toronto, so I apologize for not shutting up about him.

Anyway, the Reds will need to be on top of their game defensively (whoever actually plays) to keep the likes of Nikolic at bay. This is the kind of match where Michael Bradley can remind the world that he is absolutely not just a more expensive Dax McCarty.

Go get ‘em, lads.

Team news: injuries & suspensions

Toronto FC: Pretty much all the defenders. Nick Hagglund, Chris Mavinga, Justin Morrow, Drew Moor, and possibly Eriq Zavaleta and Victor Vazquez are all questionable at best. I doubt we see most of those players today, if any. Even Jozy Altidore seems a bit unlikely to start after picking up an injury on Wednesday, and Gregory van der Wiel is apparently also dealing with a knock. Other than that, all sunshine and rainbows, right?

Chicago Fire: The visitors have three players ruled out for over a month: midfielder Djorde Mihailovic and forward Michael De Leeuw, who both needed ACL surgery, and defender Matt Polster, who’s dealing with an MCL sprain. Forward Luis Solignac (quad) and defender Jorge Corrales (infection) will also miss out this afternoon.

How to watch

Match date/time: Saturday, April 28, 3 p.m. EST
TV channel: TSN 1 & 4, CTV (Canada)
Live stream: TSN Go, CTV Go (Canada), ESPN+
Radio: TSN 1050 (Toronto)

Pre-game reading

Before the Dawn: TFC must take solace in remarkable CCL run (Charlie O’Connor-Clarke)
Bouncing back from CCL loss will be TFC’s biggest test yet (Mitchell Tierney)
Predicting Toronto FC’s lineup against Chicago (Benedict Rhodes)

Also, if you haven’t yet, be sure to get your pick in for the Prediction League!


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