TORONTO – A pair of teams that have had trouble scoring in 2012 produced a shootout on Saturday, as the Chicago Fire defeated Toronto FC 3-2 before 19,255 at BMO Field.
The Fire made Patrick Nyarko’s 58th-minute tally stand up as the game-winner despite a furious second half rally from the hosts. That followed a back-and-forth first half that saw both teams pepper each others’ goal with a series of shots.
The bombardment commenced early, as Dominic Oduro gave the Fire a 1-0 lead just 25 seconds in. Nyarko picked the pocket of TFC sweeper Torsten Frings, who was a bit too casual after receiving a poor outlet from goalkeeper Milos Kocic. Oduro streaked onto the loose ball, took a touch and slotted under Kocic for his third goal of the season and the fifth-fastest in league history.
The Fire spurned numerous chances to go up 2-0 inside the first 20 minutes, including an audacious bicycle kick attempt from Nyarko, but Kocic was there every time.
By the half hour, the Reds had finally come into the game – and were rewarded for their endeavor with a pair of goals from winger Reggie Lambe, his first two in MLS and the first at home this season for Toronto.
The first – a surefire goal of the week contender – came after a corner that goalkeeper Sean Johnson probably should have caught, but only punched out. Lambe gathered the poor clearance, made space and put a right-footed rocket from outside the box into the top left corner in the 36th minute.
Four minutes later Lambe was there again. Ryan Johnson made a darting run down the left side and crossed for Matt Stinson, who could only deflect the ball to the back post. Lambe smashed it in and Toronto had their first lead of the season.
It didn’t last long. The Fire earned a set piece in the 41st minute, and Argentine maestro Sebastian Grazzini floated a perfect ball to the back post for Gonzao Segares to lift past a sprawling Kocic.
The second half opened with both teams looking for the go-ahead goal, and it was the Fire who would find it.
With Lambe pushing forward, Fire defender Arne Friedrich cut out a pass and sent the ball into space for Logan Pause. The Chicago captain found Oduro in space, and this time the Fire’s leading goal-scorer turned provider, slipping a ball through perfectly for Nyarko. The Ghanaian playmaker took a touch around the on-rushing Kocic and finished into the open net.
That’s when desperation set in for Toronto. Head coach Aron Winter pushed Frings up into the midfield, where he was joined by fellow DP Julian de Guzman. The two combined to tilt the field TFC’s way, and for the final 30 minutes it was one-way traffic.
Frings ended up getting into the box several times, including a header that ended up going straight to Sean Johnson. De Guzman, for his part, sent a perfect 30-yard cross to Ryan Johnson, whose header caromed off the post and out. The Reds also had a penalty shout after a deflection caromed off of Chicago defender Dan Gargan's arm, but referee Kevin Stott ruled it was ball-to-hand.
The best chance of the surge fell to Ryan Johnson, who was picked out unmarked at the near post by Eric Avila. But the big forward clipped his effort wide.
With six losses in a row, Toronto (0-6-0) continue their nightmare start to the season. Things don’t get any easier next week when they head to Real Salt Lake.
The Fire (2-1-2), meanwhile, climb into the Eastern Conference’s top five. The host Seattle next Saturday.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Patrick Nyarko||Is there a more underrated player in MLS? Smarts and hustle set up the first, speed and skill netted him the winner. And his effort on the defensive end was phenomenal.|
|2||Dominic Oduro||He's never going to be an efficient finisher, but his ability to get himself on the break twice a game makes him a legit weapon. Plus his assist on Nyarko's goal was sublime.|
|3||Reggie Lambe||Lambe will have a tough time ever topping his first goal. The second showed good hustle and smarts. But we dock him here for letting Segares sneak by on the Fire equalizer|
HIGHLIGHTS: TOR vs CHI