Down a man at the half-hour mark and playing in heavy rainfall, Toronto FC managed to muster up a hard-fought 1-1 draw against the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park on Wednesday to extend the team’s unbeaten streak to six league games.
It was a match that was marked by a controversial red card as well as solid defending from Toronto’s backline, the kind of effort that TFC boss Ryan Nelsen said he was very pleased with.
“Before the sending off, I thought we played very well,” Nelsen told MLSsoccer.com after the match. “We controlled the game and dictated it. We had to be extremely disciplined for 60 minutes and in the end, stay compact. Generally, in these games, one or two really good chances unveil themselves and in the end we could have even won the game.”
Nelsen was referring to a late five-man breakaway that saw Toronto FC nearly score a second courtesy of Dominic Oduro, whose shot was saved by Sean Johnson. Down a man, Toronto’s forward line continued to press late on, but the absence of Luke Moore was felt.
Moore’s red card came after he collided with Chris Ritter in a 50-50 challenge. Moore got an elbow on Ritter’s temple but the challenge itself did not seem malicious on Moore’s part. However, Ritter went down with a gash on his face, which drew the red card from referee Sorin Stoica.
“He probably saw a wee bit of blood and decided then that it was a red card,” Nelsen explained. “But when you look at it, it’s not a red card; it was an unfortunate accident that happened and that happens in football. Hopefully, calmer heads will prevail and when they see the video, hopefully [the MLS Disciplinary Committee] will rescind it and they’ll say it’s not a red card.”
But, despite being a man down, Toronto FC did manage to score first, Jackson getting on the end of a Jermain Defoe cross to score his second of the season. Toronto tried to hold onto the lead in the second half by bunkering down and defending, but conceded a goal just four minutes shy of the hour mark, as Harry Shipp's deflected shot gave the Fire an equalizer.
“Sometimes, when you’re away from home, you’re down to 10 men and you’ve got a lead, you want to protect it,” Nelsen said. “We probably fell back a bit too deep and allowed them to take a lot more of the play.”
Nelsen made just one change in the match, a decision he attributed to his team keeping a decent shape and not wanting to break it up; the decision proved wise as Toronto FC held on for the draw, a result he said many coaches would take, all factors considered.
His side next takes on D.C. United at BMO Field on Saturday, where Michael Bradley could see a return to action. Nelsen said that should Bradley play, he might even play up top alongside Defoe in the absence of Moore and Gilberto (hip flexor).
“We’ll see,” Nelsen said, when asked if Bradley could mark a return to league action on Saturday. “Michael’s had an emotional and physical traumatic experience with an amazing World Cup. We have to see how Michael is when he comes back.”