Well, tonight can be described as many things. The word I will use is an adventure. The most important thing is that the Men in Red walked away from BMO Field with a win. Most of Fire Nation came into tonight's game very confident of an easy win. Toronto has struggled all year, and things are not looking bright at the moment. Although Paul Mariner has been tasked with fixing what Aron Winter and MLSE have messed up, the road to recovery looks to be long and tedious for TFC fans. Despite these circumstances, Toronto FC came out with a severely reduced side tonight yet still showed fight and heart. While most of us were picking multi-goal victories, our own Gregg Mixdorf was telling us to temper our expectations. At the end of the day, he was right. Follow me after the break for a bit more analysis...
Looking at the lineups pre-match, most people wouldn't fault a Fire fan for predicting an easy win. When lineups were announced, I know I found myself scratching my head a couple of times and asking "who"? Despite the obvious disadvantage, the match was much more even than one would expect.
The Fire started out on a roll, pushing the tempo early and testing the TFC defense. After a couple of close calls, the Men in Red broke through in the 13th minute. After Pavel Pardo clanged a shot off the post, he had the wherewithal to recover, gather the ball, and float a sweet cross into the box for Alvaro "Flaco" Fernandez. Flaco wasted no time in heading the ball home, opening his "proverbial account" with the Fire. Not only was it refreshing to see Flaco score (hopefully this will really get him really going), but it was nice for Fire fans to be the team that scored first for once. Given the team has a bit of a penchant for coming from behind, an early need is a nice luxury now and again.
Although it would seem the stage was set for a rout, the side from Toronto, Ontario refused to lie down. They responded immediately after the goal, pushing forward and testing the fire backline and GK Sean Johnson. Although there were a couple of close calls, the Fire would not buckle. Toronto pretty much dominated play for most of the 1st half after Flaco's goal, but the Fire would get the last laugh heading into halftime.
In the 42nd minute, Pavel Pardo sent a corner kick into the box. It was cleared by a Toronto defender, but the ball fell to Chris Rolfe just outside of the 18 yard box. From the right edge of the box, Rolfe measured up a one-time shot that somehow seemed to sneak past the entire TFC defense as well as GK Milos Kocic. The Fire would carry a 2-0 lead into halftime, and most of us felt pretty comfortable at that point.
To Chicago's credit, we did look better for a good chunk of the 2nd half. The Fire created some good looks but could not add on to the 2 goal lead. Toronto would finally break through in the 79th minute when Eric Hassli scored a nice goal past Sean Johnson. Suddenly, after a comfortable 2 goal lead, Fire Nation started to sweat for the final 10 or so minutes.
Toronto had a couple of legit chances to tie the game up at the death, but Sean Johnson stepped up and made BMO Field his house. After a couple of very nice saves (and an unnecessary amount of stoppage time-where have we heard that one before?), the final whistle would blow. The Fire went into BMO and brought home 3 points. If SKC were to lose this weekend, the Fire could be in a tie for 1st if we can win at home. Although Montreal is a very solid team, their road form leaves something to be determined. The team will begin preparing immediately for this weekend's showdown, but looking at the standings tonight is very enjoyable for a Fire fan. We can't rest on our laurels though. As we like to say here at HTIOT, the beat rolls on...