TORONTO – A pair of teams that have had trouble scoring in 2012 produced a shootout on Saturday, as the Chicago Fire defeated Toronto FC 3-2 before 19,255 at BMO Field.
The Fire made Patrick Nyarko’s 58th-minute tally stand up as the game-winner despite a furious second half rally from the hosts. That followed a back-and-forth first half that saw both teams pepper each others’ goal with a series of shots.
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The bombardment commenced early, as Dominic Oduro gave the Fire a 1-0 lead just 25 seconds in. Nyarko picked the pocket of TFC sweeper Torsten Frings, who was a bit too casual after receiving a poor outlet from goalkeeper Milos Kocic. Oduro streaked onto the loose ball, took a touch and slotted under Kocic for his third goal of the season and the fifth-fastest in league history.
The Fire spurned numerous chances to go up 2-0 inside the first 20 minutes, including an audacious bicycle kick attempt from Nyarko, but Kocic was there every time.
By the half hour, the Reds had finally come into the game – and were rewarded for their endeavor with a pair of goals from winger Reggie Lambe, his first two in MLS and the first at home this season for Toronto.
The first – a surefire goal of the week contender – came after a corner that goalkeeper Sean Johnson probably should have caught, but only punched out. Lambe gathered the poor clearance, made space and put a right-footed rocket from outside the box into the top left corner in the 36th minute.
Four minutes later Lambe was there again. Ryan Johnson made a darting run down the left side and crossed for Matt Stinson, who could only deflect the ball to the back post. Lambe tapped it in and Toronto had their first lead of the season.
It didn’t last long. The Fire earned a set-piece in the 41st minute, and Argentine maestro Sebastian Grazzini floated a perfect ball to the back post for Gonzao Segares to head past Kocic.
The second half opened with both teams looking for the go-ahead goal, and it was the Fire who found it.
With Lambe pushing forward, Fire defender Arne Friedrich cut out a pass and sent the ball into space for Logan Pause. The Chicago captain found Oduro in space, and this time the Fire’s leading goal-scorer turned provider, slipping a ball through perfectly for Nyarko. The Ghanaian playmaker took a touch around the on-rushing Kocic and finished into the open net.
That’s when desperation set in for Toronto. Head coach Aron Winter pushed Frings up into the midfield, where he was joined by fellow DP Julian de Guzman. The two combined to tilt the field TFC’s way, and for the final 30 minutes it was one-way traffic.
Frings ended up getting into the box several times, including a header that ended up going straight to Sean Johnson. For his part, de Guzman sent a perfect 30-yard cross to Ryan Johnson, whose header caromed off the post and out.
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Ryan Johnson had another chance to tie when he was picked out unmarked at the near post by Eric Avila, but the big forward clipped his effort wide.
With six losses in a row, Toronto continues its nightmare start to the season with zero points. Things don’t get any easier next week when they head to Real Salt Lake.
The Fire, meanwhile, climb into the Eastern Conference’s top five with eight points. They host Seattle next Saturday.
1' Chicago - Dominic Oduro
36' Toronto - Reggie Lambe
40' Toronto - Reggie Lambe
41' Chicago - Gonzalo Segares
58' Chicago - Patrick Nyarko
24' Toronto - Adrian Cann (caution)
70' Toronto - Julian de Guzman (caution)
80' Toronto - Richard Eckersley (caution)
Toronto – Milos Kocic; Richard Eckersley, Torsten Frings, Adrian Cann; Matt Stinson (Luis Silva 68'), Terry Dunfield (Julian de Guzman 58'), Eric Avila (Efrain Burgos 85'), Ashtone Morgan; Reggie Lambe, Ryan Johnson, Joao Plata ... Substitutes not used: Quillan Roberts; Doneil Henry, Miguel Aceval, Ty Harden
Chicago – Sean Johnson; Dan Gargan, Gonzalo Segares, Jalil Anibaba, Arne Friedrich; Pavel Pardo, Sebastian Grazzini (Orr Barouch 79'), Marco Pappa (Frederico Puppo 65'), Logan Pause; Patrick Nyarko, Dominic Oduro (Dan Paladini 84') ... Substitutes not used: Paolo Tornaghi; Austin Berry, Rafael Robayo, Hunter Jumper