Photo: Eric Hassli (right) made his Toronto debut on Saturday (Getty)
BRIDGEVIEW, IL – After two glaring defensive miscues, it was heroics by a defender that proved the difference on Saturday night as a late header by centerback Austin Berry pushed the Chicago Fire to a 2-1 win over visitors Toronto FC at Toyota Park.
TFC struck first, as Ryan Johnson pounced on a bad back pass from midfielder Marco Pappa to Berry in the 16th minute and coolly converted past Sean Johnson for the 1-0 lead.
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Video: Watch the Game In Six minutes.
But both Pappa and Berry made amends in the second half. The Guatemalan took advantage of an errant touch by Toronto defender Logan Emory to draw the Fire level in the 64th minute, getting past an oncoming Kocic and slotting a shot past defender Richard Eckersley and into the open net.
Then in the 84th, Berry completed the comeback off a Pável Pardo free kick.
Chicago seemed poised to draw first blood in the third minute, as Fire debutant Álvaro Fernández collected a cross at the top of the six-yard box. The Uruguayan, however, took one two many touches, and the chance ultimately came to nothing.
Four minutes later, Fernández almost had an assist when he flicked on a header to Chris Rolfe, who couldn’t beat goalkeeper Milos Kocic on a breakaway.
Chicago’s profligacy came back to haunt them after Johnson's opportunistic goal.
Toronto almost doubled their lead just before the halftime whistle, as midfielder Luis Silva got a clear shot from 12 yards out. This time, Johnson made no mistake, getting low to make a spectacular save and preserve the score.
Chicago played the last 11 minutes with a man advantage after Emory received his second yellow card, and the Fire were able to exploit it when Berry nodded in the eventual winner six minutes from time.
After going on a four-game winning streak in July, Toronto (5-13-4) have now dropped two in a row. They get a chance to get back on track against the Columbus Crew on Aug. 11 at Crew Stadium.
The Fire (10-7-5), meanwhile, stay in the fifth and final playoff position in the Eastern Conference. They next travel to PPL Park to face the Philadelphia Union.
TOR – Ryan Johnson 16’
CHI – Marco Pappa 64’
CHI – Austin Berry (Pavel Pardo) 84’
CHI – Arne Friedrich (caution) 34’
TOR – Logan Emory (caution) 40’
CHI – Dominic Oduro (caution) 45’
TOR – Logan Emory (caution) 79’
TOR – Logan Emory (ejection) 79’
Toronto - Milos Kocic; Doneil Henry (Aaron Maund 78’), Richard Eckersley, Logan Emory, Ashtone Morgan; Reggie Lambe (Jeremy Hall 46’), Terry Dunfield, Torsten Frings (C), Luis Silva; Ryan Johnson, Eric Hassli (Andrew Wiedeman 61’)
Substitutes not used: Freddy Hall, Eric Avila, Quincy Amarikwa
Chicago – Sean Johnson; Jalil Anibaba, Arne Friedrich, Austin Berry, Gonzalo Segares; Alvaro Fernandez (Patrick Nyarko 50’), Logan Pause (C) (Alex 74’), Pavel Pardo, Marco Pappa; Dominic Oduro (Sherjill MacDonald 46’), Chris Rolfe
Substitutes not used: Paolo Tornaghi, Dan Gargan, Daniel Paladini, Michael Videira
Editor's note: Chicago had a two-man advantage with Jeremy Hall injured and on the touchline at time of Berry's goal.