Well, at least Michael De Leeuw is finally on the field.
Really, that’s about the best thing I can hold onto for optimism after the Chicago Fire squandered the perfect chance to get their first road win in what will now be two full calendar years against a walking wounded Toronto FC side.
Living in the limelight of BMO Field was too much for the Fire, as Sebastian Giovinco and Toronto FC ran roughshod on the road team in a 1-0 victory for the Canadian brethren.
Those lucky enough to miss Saturday night’s match might glance at the score and think, "Oh, well at least the Fire kept it close!"
It’s best to hold onto those thoughts, cause the truth is much uglier.
After some goodwill built up with back to back victories, the Fire wasted no time putting those to rest with a 9th minute goal from Justin Morrow. The goal was set-up by Giovinco, who found some space to slot a pass into the box to a streaking Morrow. The only player the Fire could’ve hoped to stop his chance was Toronto FC teammate Jordan Hamilton, who nearly collided with Morrow for the pass before pulling up at the last second and allowing his teammate to notch it past Sean Johnson.
The whole first 40 minutes or so followed a similar pattern, as the Fire midfield caught possession allergies against a high pressing defense, allowing Toronto to keep the ball closer to the heart - and on the Fire’s end of the field. A few lucky bounces and some stout defending prevented the away team from entering the half down by two or three.
The second half started with some bright news, as the Dutchman, Michael De Leeuw, finally cometh for the Fire, taking over for Michael Stephens and providing an instant spark for the offense. He didn’t make his mark on the score sheet, but De Leeuw showed flashes of his ability to find open space and make threatening runs that Fire fans (and front office) have hoped can be a difference maker for the squad.
De Leeuw proved himself a working man, and the rest of the Fire team showed extra life in the second half. Of course, with how poor they showed in the first half, just a little extra life basically equated to looking like a somewhat competitive team that still wasn’t good enough to win against above-average talent. In the end, the Fire were outshot 25-11 by Toronto and the home team enjoyed much more dangerous possession throughout the match. After going scoreless in six league matches, Giovinco looked every bit the 2015 league MVP, being a disruptive force that consistently challenged Johnson and the defense, and setting up teammates with their own chances.
Things do not get any easier for the Fire, as Saturday was the first of five matches in 15 days. The team returns to action at home Wednesday night against Sporting Kansas City. Compared to the road, Toyota Park has been the Fire’s Xanadu.