In what should have been a relatively straight forward end to the Major League Soccer regular season for Toronto FC, the home side had to work hard to get the three points against the bottom team in the entire league, the Chicago Fire.
Toronto FC will now face the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday night to start their playoff journey while the Fire will now to look to the offseason and next year to try and address everything that has left them out of the post-season and at the bottom of the table.
Chicago take a surprise lead in the first half
After a run of poor results in September which saw Toronto FC pick up one win throughout that run of games, BMO Field was expecting a better showing from the home side and the team responded to that by starting on the front foot. Toronto tried to find a way through the Chicago back line but could only muster one real opportunity in the first ten minutes of the half which fell to talisman Sebastian Giovinco. Giovinco tried to power home his effort but could only watch as it went wide of the goal.
Chicago then turned the game on it's head in the 18th minute. Michael de Leeuw broke forward from midfield and passed the ball to Arturo Alvarez who had found some space at the top of the box. de Leeuw continued his run and Alvarez slipped the ball to him before he fired home from close range and through the legs of TFC goalkeeper Clint Irwin. Toronto almost responded immediately through Giovinco on two occasions but young Chicago goalkeeper, Patrick McLain, made two big stops to keep Chicago in the lead.
Toronto draw level against the run of play
From about the 25th minute onwards, Chicago had the majority of the possession and seemed to be one pass away from extending their lead. Through David Accam and Brandon Vincent, the left flank for Chicago was creating chances for their attacking players that they were just not able to capitalize on. Both Alvarez and Accam had looks on goal to give Chicago a two goal lead but their touch failed them and they could not convert the opportunities presented to them. Chicago would soon regret those missed chances.
Right at the end of the first half, João Meira who had had a running battle with Giovinco all game long, fouled the Italian in the box after some good setup play by Toronto. The referee waited for play to develop before pointing at the spot and awarding TFC a penalty. Giovinco stepped up to take it and converted it past McLain who had guessed the right way but could not get a hand to it.
Toronto take control in the second half
Head coach Greg Vanney clearly got into his team at half time as they came out in the second half looking much better on both sides of the ball and it was not long before their efforts were rewarded with a goal. The second TFC goal came in the 54th minute when Michael Bradley played a ball over the top to Giovinco who brought it down well with one touch. The striker then created some space for himself in the box before chipping the ball to Justin Morrow who headed home from three yards away.
Toronto were not done and less than ten minutes later, Armando Cooper was the creator for their third goal of the night. The midfielder slipped a ball into Jonathan Osorio who then turned his marker, rounded a diving McLain before placing the ball into the roof of the net to give Toronto a 3-1 advantage.
Toronto then slowed the pace down as they sought to see out the game but their defensive lapses, which had been an issue for the latter part of the season, showed up again. In the 83rd minute, Chicago substitute John Goossens pounced on a missed clearance by Eric Zavaleta and finished well low to Irwin's right to put Chicago within one of the home side. Chicago had not given up and continued to pressure the Toronto defenders who were forced into kicking the ball away at every opportunity to survive the end of the game. It will certainly be something that Vanney will look to address before Toronto's match against the Union but as for now, the defenders did enough to see out the win.