September 12, 2012
Torrid Fire continue climb up the Eastern Conference ladder with 2-1 win over TFC
TORONTO—The Chicago Fire survived a second-half letdown and vaulted into second place in the MLS East with Wednesday night’s 2-1 win over Toronto FC at BMO Field.
|Chris Rolfe's 42nd-minute goal was the game-winner against Toronto on Wednesday night.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Alvaro Fernandez opened the scoring in the 13th minute, with his first Fire goal, and Chris Rolfe doubled Chicago’s lead with a counterattacking strike in the 42nd that turned out to be the game-winner after Eric Hassli connected for Toronto in the 79th. The win was Chicago’s fifth in their last six league games, and leaves them at 14-8-5 and 47 points, three points behind conference leaders Sporting Kansas City and one ahead of the New York Red Bulls.
A backfield turnover by Toronto’s Aaron Maund opened the door for Chicago’s first goal. The ball ended up with Pavel Pardo, who smacked a shot off the left post and took off after the rebound, trailed by netminder Milos Kocic. The Mexican international played the ball back across the goalmouth to Fernandez for a header from just off the right post with no ‘keeper in sight.
The Reds, who matched the Fire’s 10 first-half shots, looked ready to respond almost immediately, but could not find the mark. On the restart after Fernandez’s goal, a Toronto player went down after glancing contact from a Fire defender, but did not get a call. Toronto had to settle for a weak shot by Andrew Wiedemann, easily stopped by ‘keeper Sean Johnson.
The Reds quickly regained possession, and earned a 25-yard free kick in the 15th minute, again after contact between Friedrich and Amarikwa. Luis Silva’s service found Eric Hassli at the top of the box, and he forced Johnson into a fingertip save on his glancing header. The extended period of Toronto possession, their best showing of the half, continued for another few minutes, producing dangerous chances for Hassli and Wiedemann, but no goals. Hassli came closest, forcing Johnson to save a hard shot to the lower left side of the net.
Rolfe, who had sent an open shot wide of the left post just after the half-hour mark, doubled the Fire’s lead in the 42nd minute, after Kocic came off his line to block a breakaway shot off Patrick Nyarko’s foot for a corner kick. Hassli tried to head the ball out of danger, but it ended up with Rolfe just outside the top right corner of the penalty area, and the Fire forward half-volleyed a shot into the left inside netting.
Nyarko had another breakaway chance seconds later, after beating Reds defender Richard Eckersley on a 50-50 play, but missed the mark with a long shot rather than dishing off to Sherjill MacDonald, who was open in the box.
The second half lacked the intensity of the first, with the Fire nursing their lead and the Reds visibly demoralized. The best chances continued to come to Chicago, starting with a couple of early shots by Rolfe, a wide-open miss by Sherjill MacDonald from the top of the arc in the 64th minute, and Pardo’s 17-yarder over the bar seconds later.
Newly-signed Wells Thompson came off the bench for the Fire for Fernandez in the 63rd minute, and made a dangerous foray past defender Ashtone Morgan into the right side of the box in the 69th, but missed to the near side.
In addition to playing hard-nosed defense, halftime substitute Morgan added an element of danger to the Toronto attack, serving pinpoint balls in from the left flank. In the 74th minute, he found Hassli in the six-yard box, but the Frenchman’s close-in header was blocked. And barely a minute later, Johnson leaped to pick off another Morgan service just ahead of Luis Silva, who was crashing the right post. Morgan also helped orchestrate Hassli’s 79th-minute goal, bringing the ball down the left before passing off to Reggie Lambe, who found Silva at the top of the box for a quick relay to Hassli for a low right-footed finish into the lower right side.
The energized Reds did their best to complete the comeback, but the shaken Chicago defense held, fending off back-to-back shots by Eric Avila and Darren O’Dea’s point-blank header at Johnson within the final ten minutes.