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Going Wrong Is Not The End Of Things: Toronto FC 2, Chicago Fire 2, MLS match recap

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Men in Red survive first-half thrashing, snatch unlikely road draw against defending MLS Cup champions

MLS: Chicago Fire at Toronto FC John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto FC 2 (Osorio 8’, Vazquez 22’)

Chicago Fire 2 (Schweinsteiger 69’, Gordon 90+4’)

There’s a moment in the great HBO show Deadwood when Dan Dority, an enforcer with whom the audience sympathizes, is about to have a titanic showdown on the main thoroughfare with another, more heralded bruiser. His friend Johnny stammers out a plan to intervene and save Dan’s life, “if it goes wrong.”

Dan stops the conversation short with this blast of Milchian clarity: “You do and it’ll be the last g--damn thing you do on this f---ing earth. Going wrong is not the end of f---ing things, Johnny. F--- no! I have come back from plenty of shit that looked like it was going wrong.”

After Saturday’s never-say-die 2-2 draw in Toronto, it’s not hard to imagine Bastian Schweinsteiger, say, or Dax McCarty - someone with enough miles on the chassis to speak with authority - delivering a similar speech to the Fire. Despite being torn limb-from-limb by the rampant hosts in the opening half, Chicago refused to stop striving, getting a scrappy goal from sub Alan Gordon in the fourth minute of stoppage time to split the points.

The comeback started with Schweinsteiger, whose effort was palpable all game, even when the end product did not inspire. Gesturing men forward, exhorting his younger teammates to keep pressing, Basti was everywhere - when Kevin Ellis couldn’t steer Diego Campos’ corner on goal in the 69th, it was little surprise to find the German placed perfectly in the area, turning Ellis’ wide shot into goal to halve the Toronto lead, 2-1.

It was Schweinsteiger’s cross in the final half-minute of stoppage time that the Reds couldn’t clear, instead knocking the ball down perfectly for Gordon to perform the pitiless-scoring-machine magic he’s made a career of in moments just like this one, pouncing on the bouncing ball with one decisive step and lashing the half-volley thunderously into the roof of the Toronto net. 2-2, where it would end seconds later.

The look of nauseated disgust on TFC manager Greg Vanney’s face - while objectively delightful for a Chicago fan - was understandable; the Reds have had a result go sideways on the final kick twice in four days, which is difficult to stomach, and doubly so after dominating the opening half so comprehensively. Pouring forward through a Fire midfield that struggled to control the game, the quality of Toronto’s creative axis of Giovinco and Victor Vazquez made Richard Sanchez’s goal a shooting gallery and should’ve staked the hosts to a three-goal cushion in the game’s first quarter.

Giovinco set up the first goal, performing a bit of wizardry to wriggle free in the right channel, then - with the Fire defense shifting wildly in his direction - centered for Jonathan Osorio to tap home. 1-0, just 8 minutes in. The postgoal hullaballo was still underway in BMO Field three minutes later when Giovinco apparently doubled the lead, only to have the goal dismissed for offside.

Then it was Vazquez’ turn to dazzle, turning a difficult-to-handle bouncing pass into the area into an achingly perfect back-post chip. Sanchez, after playing the game of his life last week in stymying New York Red Bulls, could only turn and watch the ball float gently into the side-netting: 2-0, and it looked like the rout could be on.

But the Fire never stopped never stopping, instead shoring up their lines and focusing on making clean breaks on the counter. Only a strong performance by TFC netminder Alex Bono kept Chicago scoreless until halftime. When Bono saved Schweinsteiger’s penalty late in the half, a comeback looked unlikely, but the German was not deterred, moving about the field from his nominal spot in the very center of defense to create overloads and looks at goal, finally ending the night in a stroll-out to where his career began, very high on the right wing, lobbing in a cross.

Chicago has now claimed four points from what was, in prospect, a very daunting two-game road trip. None of them have come gracefully, but if they can continue to coax teams down into the mud with them, watch out. This is getting fun.

The Fire (2-3-2) are home to Atlanta United next Saturday evening, with kickoff slated for 7:30 CDT. Toronto (1-4-1) hosts Philadelphia Friday evening.

Note: An earlier version of this story listed TFC Alex Bono as ‘Steve Bono.’ Hot Time regrets the error.

An earlier version of this story also said next Saturday’s game against Atlanta would be on the road. The Fire are hosting that game on May 5th at Toyota Park.