The Chicago Fire were supposed to be one of the last big hurdles Toronto FC have, as the season begins to hit it's most critical points and for large portions of the match, the hosts were. However, this year's version of Toronto has many weapons in it's arsenal and those players came to the fore as the visitors came away with a big 3-1 win at Toyota Park this evening.
Toronto spread the goals out and profit from it
One of the keys to Toronto's season so far is how many goal scorers they now have on their roster. The Canadian outfit don't rely on just Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore to produce the magic for them any more as other players have stepped up and helped the team stay at the top of Major League Soccer, thus giving them 15 different goal scorers so far this season. This was the case again tonight against Chicago as goals came from Marco Delgado and Nicolas Hasler before Giovinco made things certain right at the end of the match.
Delgado got his second goal of the season in the eighth minute when he was played onside by Bastian Schweinsteiger and put away the rebound from Hasler's effort on goal. In the second half, as the Fire found their footing in the game, it was newcomer Hasler who got the go ahead goal in the 63rd minute when he was found by Víctor Vázquez' cross into the box.
Giovinco then made it three in the 90th minute, picking up his 11th of the season after he received the pass from Tosaint Ricketts on the counter. Toronto continue to play a pleasing-on-the-eye style of soccer and have the results to back up Greg Vanney's tactical and rotational decisions all throughout the season. They look likely winners of the MLS Supporters Shield and will most people's favourites in the MLS Playoffs as well.
Nikolić's drought continues as Chicago struggle in front of goal
The Chicago Fire need a rethink of their systems and they need it quickly. They have only picked up two wins in their last nine MLS outings and seemingly on a slide down the Eastern conference table.
Part of that has to do with how the goals have seemingly dried up for Nemanja Nikolić. The Serbian forward has 16 goals this season but has not found the back of the net in six games and without his goals, no one else in a Fire jersey has stepped up to the plate to replicate his feats in front of goal.
David Accam, who got onto the score sheet today in the 54th minute, is struggling to adapt to Chicago's style of play and has not been able to be as effective as the coaching staff want him to be.
It's not as though Chicago are not creating the chances for their forwards to put away, as evident in today's game, it's just that their forwards are not as clinical in front of goal as they were earlier this season. Against Toronto FC, after a poor first half, Nikolić, Accam and Michael de Leeuw all had great chance to pull them game within reach for them but only Accam took one of his chances while the rest faltered.
Chicago's backline were also unable to deal with the movement and passing from Toronto's midfield and it left them exposed time and time again. It's not panic stations yet for Chicago as they built enough of a lead during the earlier parts of the season to keep them firmly in playoff contention but they will need to figure out how to get Nikolić going again or their playoff run will be a very short one.