Toronto FC 3-1 Chicago Fire: Toronto wins the battle of the basement dwellers
Photo by @ChicagoFire on Twitter

The Chicago Fire returned to losing ways on Sunday afternoon as they were beaten by Toronto FC 3-1 at BMO Field.

Chicago actually took the lead on the afternoon when Robert Berić’s deflected strike flew past the goalkeeper, but Toronto grabbed an equalizer right before the break through Marky Delgado. The hosts then took control in the second half, and goals from Omar Gonzalez and Yeferson Soteldo proved to be enough for them to secure the win and all three points. 

Story of the match

The away side opened the scoring after just 15 minutes. A pass from Fabian Herbers slipped through Robert Berić, who had his shot deflect off of Michael Bradley and into the back of the net.

Jacob Shaffelburg nearly scored a screamer for Toronto, as his shot from distance seemed like it had a chance of flying into the top corner. However, it ended up sailing just a bit over instead.

The hosts were awarded a penalty past the hour mark after Jonathan Bornstein cleared the ball into his own arm. They couldn’t capitalize on the gift that was given to them, though, as Yeferson Soteldo’s weak attempt was easily saved by 17-year-old Gabriel Slonina.

Toronto would eventually equalize moments before the end of the half. A cross from Shaffelburg picked out Marky Delgado on the edge of the area, and his effort redirected off of Bornstein before flying past the goalkeeper and in.

They should have gone in front in stoppage time, to be fair. Bradley’s cross into the area was perfect, but Shaffelburg hit his header right into the grateful arms of Slonina.

It looked like Toronto had taken the lead minutes into the start of the second half when Shaffelburg got on the end of a low cross at the backpost. The goal would not stand, though, as the sideline official’s flag correctly went up to signal for offside since a player in the buildup had gone a bit early.

Shaffelburg was involved once again a bit later. Flying forward on the counter, he did well to create space and get a shot off on the right wing, but Slonina denied him with a nice kick save.

The Canadian outfit’s continued pressure eventually paid off as they went in front following a corner. Taken short to Soteldo, his ball into the box was a dangerous one, and Omar Gonzalez ran onto it before powering a header past a relatively helpless goalkeeper.

Gastón Giménez then almost scored a goal of the season contender. His audacious effort from midfield was hit very well, but Alex Bono was able to get back in time to make the save.

That proved to be key since Toronto doubled their advantage in the blink of an eye with 20 minutes to go. Soteldo snuck in behind the opposing backline, and once he got the ball it was all but over, as he took a touch to settle himself before he blasted a shot into the back of the net.

Chicago could’ve pulled one back when Berić picked up the ball in the area, but he just couldn’t get his feet sorted, and his eventual attempt was blocked as a result. He then converted from close range later on, but his strike was wiped off the board since he was offside.

Those proved to be the final highlights of the contest, and Toronto was ultimately able to hold on to the result with ease.

Takeaways

I used to think that Chicago should wait another year before giving Gabriel Slonina the starting spot, but it’s now clear that he should be the number one at the start of next season. Sure, he did give up three on the day, but he wasn’t really at fault for any of them. Will there be some growing pains? Of course. It’ll still be worth it, though.

Speaking of youngsters, Toronto might have a real gem in Jacob Shaffelburg. Constantly involved going forward, the 21-year-old was key in the final third for Toronto, doing a little bit of everything. He can shoot, pass, and dribble, and all three of those traits were on show this afternoon. His future is certainly bright.

Frank Klopas is definitely not the man for the full-time head coaching job, by the way. It doesn’t look like the Fire plan on keeping him around in that position, of course, but some interim managers in the past have ended up getting the permanent job after impressing on a temporary basis, like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. That won’t be happening here, though.

Man of the match - Omar Gonzalez

The matchwinner on the afternoon, Omar Gonzalez was able to prove that he can still do a job at his age.

The 32-year-old put in a very solid shift, making an impact on both sides of the pitch. He was key for Toronto defensively, as he anchored a backline that only gave up one goal, which came courtesy of a deflection. Then, going forward, he scored his side’s second of the contest when he headed home a corner in the early stages of the second half. That put them in front, and they never looked back.

Some may be surprised to see Gonzalez featuring in the starting lineup for an MLS team at this stage of his career, but if this showing was any indication, then he might be sticking around for a little bit longer.

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