The hosts took the lead through Deandre Kerr early on, but Chicago slowly started to take control of the contest. They made the most of their dominance, scoring twice to go ahead. However, they then fell apart, giving away a penalty that was slotted home by Alejandro Pozuelo before the Spaniard won the game for Toronto with a screamer out of nowhere.
That proved to be the matchwinning moment, and what a wonderful moment it was.
Story of the match
After a slow start, the hosts jumped in front. A quick attacking move got the ball up the field, and Jesús Jiménez ended up picking out Deandre Kerr in a dangerous area. He then did the rest, drilling a low shot that ended up going in, even if the goalkeeper arguably should have done better.
Gabriel Slonina somewhat made up for that poor showing midway through the half. A cross awkwardly deflected towards him, and he had to react quickly to adjust his feet and acrobatically tip the ball over the bar.
Chicago finally had a good chance of their own later on, as a shot from Federico Navarro rebounded right back to him in the area. However, he bottled the opportunity, skying a mishit shot into the Canadian sky.
Not much happened after, but the Fire absolutely should have tied things up right before the half. They flew forward on the attack, and the ball eventually found Kacper Przybyłko, who was wide open just a few yards out from goal. Just like he’s done all season, though, the striker made a mess of the finish, blasting a shot well over the bar.
Xherdan Shaqiri nearly equalized in spectacular fashion moments into the second half. He went for an audacious flying scissor kick, and he made decent contact on the strike, but his effort went right to the goalkeeper.
The away side kept pushing forward, and they were eventually able to level the scoring. Toronto just couldn’t get rid of the ball, and it eventually fell to Shaqiri out wide. His chipped cross into the box was a superb one, and Carlos Terán pounced on it by rising highest and heading home from close range.
Chicago kept the good times rolling, seemingly jumping in front just minutes later. Miguel Navarro’s initial shot was deflected and saved brilliantly by the goalkeeper, but the rebound fell to Jairo Torres, who rifled home from just a few yards out. However, a VAR review would call the goal off, and it was the right decision since the Mexican was well offside.
They would find the back of the net once again, and this time the goal stood. Shaqiri’s ball in behind to Gastón Giménez was then headed back towards the edge of the area, and it fell right to Przybyłko. He finally made the most of an opportunity, hitting a volley off the ground past everyone and in.
In an unbelievable turn of events, Toronto equalized moments later completely against the run of play. Federico Navarro stupidly took out Alejandro Pozuelo in the box, and the referee ultimately pointed to the spot following a VAR review. The Spaniard stepped up to take the resulting spot-kick, and he buried it down the middle after Slonina dived to a side.
Chicago responded well, pushing back up the field. The ball found Torres in the area, and he did well to turn before going for goal. His strike was a decent one, but it was saved by Quentin Westberg. The goalkeeper was then forced into another good save after an effort from distance was headed for the bottom corner.
However, it would be the hosts who scored the next goal. This was just Pozuelo magic, as he drove forward with the ball before rifling a shot off the underside of the crossbar and in. It was a moment of pure brilliance.
Shaqiri then tried to do the same, and he got pretty close, creating an attacking move almost all on his own. He fell at the final hurdle, though, as his eventual attempt was nowhere near the frame.
The Swiss captain came even closer moments later, hitting the bar with a first-time shot from inside the area.
Despite Chicago lumping everyone and everything forward to end the contest, they failed to find one more goal. As a result, Toronto were able to somehow secure the win and all three points.
Why in the world was Xherdan Shaqiri playing centrally? He’s been struggling there all season, but at least Chicago had the excuse of not having anyone else that could fill in there. That’s not the case anymore, though, as Jairo Torres was in the starting lineup this time around. He should’ve been used centrally, and Shaqiri should have finally returned to his more natural position on the wing. Ironically enough, the Swiss captain ended up getting an assist after picking up the ball out wide following a set-piece. Thankfully he drifted out to the sidelines more and more as the game went on, but he has to be used there all the time from now on.
That is one of the reasons why it might be time to start worrying about head coach Ezra Hendrickson. He’s been really stubborn, seemingly refusing to change his personnel or formation or tactics. The roster he’s working with is not great, of course, but he has to start getting more out of this side. It’s obviously too soon to start tweeting about #EzraOut, but the seat he’s on should be a little warm, at least.
Toronto looked really bad here at times. Despite being at home, they didn’t really look like they were trying to win the game. They sat back while the scores were level, and they got dominated in terms of possession and chance creation. If they weren’t playing the Fire then they almost certainly would have lost. They desperately need Italian superstar Lorenzo Insigne, and they need him to arrive as soon as possible.
Man of the match - Alejandro Pozuelo
Alejandro Pozuelo wasn’t really involved for much of the contest. However, that didn’t matter at the end of the day, as he stepped up when it mattered most.
With his side down 2-1, the Spaniard decided to pull off a remontada by himself. His first was a bit fortunate, as it came via a penalty, and he was only given the opportunity from the spot after a ridiculous challenge by a Fire player.
There was nothing lucky about his second, though. Picking up the ball near midfield, he did everything on his own, dribbling forward into space before unleashing a shot that curled off the crossbar and into the back of the net. It was a glorious strike, and it deserved to be the moment that won his side the match.
Pozuelo was the only reason why Toronto won this game, which goes to show just how important superstars can be in this league. Now imagine how good he’ll be alongside the aforementioned Lorenzo Insigne.