Jul 28, 2018; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore (17) celebrates scoring a goal with Chris Mavinga (23) and midfielder Jonathan Osorio (21) during the second half against the Chicago Fire at BMO Field. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
TORONTO — Toronto FC is back in the hunt.
Jozy Altidore scored the Reds’ first and Jonathan Osorio and Sebastian Giovinco also hit the target to seal a 3-0 win over the Chicago Fire, who slipped to a fifth consecutive defeat for the first time since 2015. Toronto won back-to-back MLS games — both of which have been against the Fire — for the first time this year and is now within six points of the fifth-place Montreal Impact with a game in hand.
“We’re still a bit rusty but I think the chemistry’s there,” Altidore said. “You saw some beautiful soccer, which is what we’ve become known for. That’s the part I’m happiest with.”
It took 45 minutes — and a half-time substitution and change of formation — for TFC to really hit its stride. Osorio had a tap-in taken off his boot by Fire defender Raheem Edwards before the break and Justin Morrow headed narrowly wide but for the most part, excitement was in short supply.
That quickly changed when Greg Vanney switched his starting 3-5-2 formation to a 4-4-2 diamond, bringing on Marky Delgado to bolster the midfield. Osorio subsequently moved over to left back Morrow’s side of the pitch, and Chicago never got a grip on the energetic, elusive duo.
“The way they were defending us, our extra number or free player was behind the ball all the time,” Vanney said. “We weren’t able to find the extra number or open guy to play forward to, and so a lot of our actions were sputtering and coming backwards.”
A brilliant nutmeg by Giovinco created space for the Italian to release Osorio down the side of the penalty area in the 52nd minute. Delgado met the Canadian’s chipped cross with his head. Chicago goalkeeper Richard Sánchez saved the shot but couldn’t hold onto it, and in the ensuing melée Altidore pounced from close range.
The American celebrated by holding his boot to his ear as a phone.
“I was answering the call, man,” he joked afterwards. “Sometimes when your city calls, you’ve gotta pick up the phone.”
Chris Mavinga, who is still yet to score his first goal for TFC, got as close as he ever has with a header a few minutes later.
But Vanney did not have to wait too long to see his team double its lead.
Shortly after the clock ticked over 70 minutes, Delgado released Altidore down the right and Toronto progressed the ball across the pitch to Vázquez. He picked Giovinco out with a perfect cross and the 2015 MVP volleyed back across goal for Osorio to tap in his eighth league goal of the season.
Osorio, who is out of contract at the end of the year, has scored as many MLS goals this season as he had in his past four campaigns combined.
Giovinco looked set for another personally frustrating day in front of goal, hitting the crossbar from close range, before a stroke of good fortune made sure of the points. Eighteen-year-old Ayo Akinola, who had replaced Altidore, found Giovinco in space. After cutting inside, the 31-year-old fired a shot that hit a Chicago defender and looped beyond Sánchez.
That put the icing on a second-half performance that will generate some much-needed momentum going into next weekend’s visit to league leaders Atlanta United.
“We have a tough game coming up next week against a very good team, but I think it’s a game we need,” Altidore added. “We need these kind of games where we’re forced to play our best football.”