Published on April 22nd, 2017 | by Jeff Engelhardt0
Reality Check: Toronto FC shows championship pedigree in 3-1 victory over Fire
Toronto FC hit the Chicago Fire with a reality check Friday, using a comprehensive team performance led by a resurgent Sebastian Giovinco to earn a 3-1 victory.
The game started even enough with both teams enjoying spells of possession and the Fire seemingly getting on the board first. But as has been the case so often this season, especially early in games, Nemanja Nikolic was ruled offside as he got on the end of a deflected Juninho free kick.
Chicago would have a few more offsides in the first half as Toronto continued to apply more and more pressure. Giovinvo was active early and often, sending a shot just over the bar in the 11th minute that ended up setting the tone for the rest of his night. The Atomic Ant ended the night with a staggering 11 shots, six of which were on goal. To put that in comparison, the Fire ended the night with eight shots, only one of which was on goal.
Giovinco finally made good on his consistent pressure in the 28th minute when he found some space just outside the top right side of the Fire’s box. Giovinco used a quick cut to find space between Michael Harrington and Johan Kappelhof to beat a diving Jorge Bava with a low bouncer to the near post.
Only four minutes later, Toronto would double the lead on a short corner play that saw Justin Morrow put in a well placed cross to the far post where Eriq Zavaleta out-jumped and bullied Brandon Vincent, a recovering Bastian Schweinsteiger and seemingly whoever he wanted to head down a goal to the near post. Giovinco nearly scored in the 39th minute with a mirror image attempt to his first goal, but it went just wide.
The Fire made a late push at the end of the half that saw Dax McCarty send a shot from 20 yards out that came painfully close to finding the back of the net before going just wide.
The second half saw no changes for the Fire and the result was pretty much a rerun of the first half.
Toronto kept the chances coming through Giovinco and midfielder Victor Vazquez, who was impressive on the night with an assist on the opening goal.
Once the Fire did make changes, some positives started to happen. Daniel Johnson, who came in for Nemanja Nikolic, had another highlight moment when he danced outside the box, played a give-and-go with Kappelhof and nearly scored on an attempt that went high and wide.
But the positive play was quickly iced by Giovinco once more. After a Kappelhof foul, Giovinco lined up to take a free kick and converted an absolute stunner, beating Bava to the upper 90 on the near post.
With the game in hand, Chicago found a garbage time goal with the positive play of David Accam, who impressed in his 30-minute shift after coming on for Michael de Leeuw. Accam struck in the 88th minute after working a break out with Luis Solignac that saw Solignac play a perfect pass to the center of the box that Accam expertly finished.
The 3-1 loss was a good reminder for a team that should never let its feet get too high off the ground, no matter how confident it may be feeling. Toronto seemed to wake up after a sleepy start to the season and Giovinco played like the MVP candidate he is. There is no shame in taking a loss on the road in Toronto.
The real takeaway from this game will be seeing how the team responds in New York. The Fire took a true shot on the chin for the first time since Atlanta and looked like the lesser team throughout the entire 90+ minutes. A team that has shown the kind of promise the Fire has would rebound from such a shot with a motivated, high-energy performance in the next match.
Hopefully we see the Men in Red come out against New York with a chip on their shoulder. If the response is strong, this game will quickly be forgotten. If the response is weak, this game could be looked back on as the start of a snowball effect that knocked the season off the tracks.
I remain hopeful.