TORONTO – It was a game Toronto FC looked set to win, to take all three points out of. But, a late goal by Quincy Amarikwa gave the Chicago Fire the equalizer and spoiled the home team's celebration at BMO Field.
TFC head coach Ryan Nelsen admitted that the 2-2 draw would have been welcome a year ago, but added that the result felt more like a loss than a positive. Injuries to starting defenders Steven Caldwell and Justin Morrow further added to his defensive concerns in August, too.
“Losing Steven, your captain, was kind of unsettling for us,” Nelsen told reporters after the match. “We were in control up until then. We had a lot of the ball, we had a lot of the possession – this is why the analytical guys will now see we had the possession but we didn’t really do much with it. We didn’t really punish them. We had a couple of really good chances and we left them in the game. Losing Justin kind of disrupted us. We needed some energy, a lift.”
Amarikwa's late equalizer, with the ball bouncing around in the box without being cleared, is the kind of “soft goal” Nelsen says his team has to work on preventing in the future.
“That second goal was just horrendous to tell you the truth,” Nelsen said. “When an opposition player gets down to that end line, we’ve got to have midfielders right on top of our back line defending our box. But we were spectators. We kind of watched it, hoping somebody would make a play and in the end, it was a deflection bicycle kick that fell unfortunately to them and they punished us. We had guys just watching in nice, comfortably positions and when you put yourself out of the arena to affect the game, things like this happen.”
“We let our guards down,” TFC defender Mark Bloom told MLSsoccer.com. “A team that expects to go deep in playoffs can’t give up those types of goals. We’re definitely going to look at that and we’re going to fix it.”
The two Chicago goals were scored by former TFC strikers, with Robert Earnshaw scoring his first in Chicago colours.
Does it sting a little more when former players score against their old teams?
“Yeah,” Bloom admitted. “I mean, good for them, they’re both good guys. I know Ernie, so it’s good for him, first game back, to get a goal. It’s good for him, for his career. For us, you don’t want to see anyone score from the other team, so in that way, it stings.”
Toronto FC next takes on the New England Revolution at BMO Field on Saturday and Bloom says his side just has to do one thing to hold those winning leads late on.
“I think the only thing is just 90 minutes of complete focus,” Bloom said. “We have the talent, no matter who’s in there, who’s injured – whoever the four is back there is talented enough to get a shut out every game. It’s just a matter of not giving them an easy way out, not giving them an easy goal and making them earn it. The games that we make people earn their shots and earn their goals, those are the shut outs, those are the 2-1 wins.”