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Chicago Fire’s playoff hopes, Bridgeview era both end in draw with Toronto FC

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — The Chicago Fire saw two chapters come to an end Sunday.

It was Fire’s final home game of the season and the last game the team will play at SeatGeek Stadium as its primary home, with the club moving to Soldier Field next year. The possibility remains that the Fire may have rare games in Bridgeview in the future, but Soldier Field is home going forward.

The Fire’s playoff hopes also were officially extinguished Sunday. Chicago drew 2-2 with Toronto FC, but New England beat New York City FC 2-0. Those results put the Fire six points behind New England heading into the final day of the season.

“We knew it was a little bit of a long shot, but we still believed,” Fire midfielder Dax McCarty said of the team’s playoff hopes. “I thought the last, I don’t know, maybe seven, eight games we’d been in a pretty good run of form. We had been playing better. We had been getting some results to go our way. I thought every time we got a positive result we couldn’t really follow it up with any momentum.”

The Fire (9-12-12, 39 points) have a 4-2-3 record in the past nine matches. That level of play throughout the season would have had the Fire solidly in a playoff spot. Instead, they are out with a game to go.

“It’s a pity that our season is going to end because the team was growing properly,” Fire coach Veljko Paunović said.

After a scoreless first half, the action ramped up in the second half. Jozy Altidore gave Toronto the lead in the 59th minute only to see the Fire score twice through Aleksandar Katai and Fabian Herbers. However, Omar Gonzalez tied the match in the 80th minute, three minutes after Herbers gave the Fire the lead.

Sep 29, 2019; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Fire fans pay tribute to the last Chicago Fire game being played in Bridgeview, Illinois. The Chicago Fire will play at Soldiers Field next year. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

“I see how we played against a team like Toronto or how we played against other teams like Atlanta, even LAFC,” Fire defender Bastian Schweinsteiger said. “We are not worse than them in my eyes. They are more consistent.”

Schweinsteiger lamented the team’s lack of finishing despite creating chances. That has been a theme throughout the year.

“This game kind of showed exactly how it was also through the season,” Schweinsteiger said. “We had very good opportunities. We brought the ball in very good spots. We didn’t score the first goal. We lacked all season in that. We are one of the teams who created the most chances. We didn’t convert them [into] goals.”

As for the end of the Fire’s time in Bridgeview, a crowd of 17,748 loudly cheered the team on to win the home finale. It was not to be.

“I think a lot of great memories here for Fire fans,” McCarty said. “A lot of great memories for the players. Obviously some not so great memories as well. That’s just going to be part of the history of this club.

“The fans wanted to send SeatGeek out on the right note and they did their jobs. Unfortunately the players, we just came up a little bit short.”

The draw kept Toronto (12-10-11, 47 points) in sixth place in the Eastern Conference. TFC enters the final matchday being able to go as high as fourth or as low as seventh in the standings. Toronto is now unbeaten in nine straight in league play with six draws in that span.

“We’ve kept sort of this form of being really difficult to beat,” Toronto coach Greg Vanney said. “For that I’m happy. It’s a little bit of execution and for us as we go towards the playoffs, we don’t want these games to look like this one did tonight where it’s really end-to-end.”

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