TORONTO — Much has changed in a year for both Toronto FC and the Chicago Fire, but the outcome of their latest April meeting at BMO Field was the same: an end-to-end 2-2 draw.
Last year, TFC raced into a 2-0 lead before being pegged back late by the Fire. This time, it was Toronto that required a late goal, scored by Jonathan Osorio, to salvage a point.
Though the order of the goals was different, many of the dynamics of the game were the same.
TFC, missing starting right back Auro and handing a debut to Richie Laryea as a result, largely dominated the ball, and took the lead when Alejandro Pozuelo crossed for Jozy Altidore, who headed past Fire goalkeeper David Ousted.
“I thought they would try to protect the space between their lines, protect their center backs, try to hit us on the counter,” Toronto coach Greg Vanney said. “By and large, it looked as I expected. I thought for much of the first half, we very much had control of the game.”
Unfortunately for Vanney, many of the defensive vulnerabilities that plagued his team last year reared their head once again and C.J. Sapong’s equalizer before the half was followed by Nemanja Nikolic’s first Fire goal of the season in the 62nd minute.
Sapong took down a long pass from Jeremiah Gutjahr and caught TFC goalkeeper Alex Bono in no man’s land, chipping his fellow American with his left foot as Bono scrambled to get back into position.
“The goal at the end of the half was killer, just because they really had nothing going for them every time they tried to get out,” Vanney added. “To give up a ridiculous goal at the end of the half was not where you wanted to be coming into half time.”
Nikolic’s second was largely of TFC’s own making. A loose pass from Drew Moor resulted in a midfield turnover and the Fire’s Aleksandar Katai, who had taken a yellow card early in the game amid Toronto’s efforts to provoke him into one of a different color, ghosted down the left before crossing for the Hungarian striker to convert from close range.
Altidore crossed for Osorio in much the same way as Pozuelo had done for him to tie it up with less than 15 minutes to go, but the hosts could not find a winner thereafter.
“It feels like two points dropped,” Reds defender Drew Moor said. “It’s a game where they sat in very deep and wanted to absorb pressure and protect their goal and try to catch us on the counter. We didn’t defend a couple of plays well enough and that’s the main reason we ended up dropping two points today.”
Pozuelo described the Fire’s defensive gameplan in more blunt terms.
“We feel no good after the game because I think inside the pitch we have the possession, we have the feel, we win the game, but they come here only for defense, kicking and not football,” the Spaniard said. “I think this is not football. We are disappointed because I think this (is a) game we need to win. But we feel good, and I think that the team played good.”
Toronto remains unbeaten and among the early leaders in the Eastern Conference at 3-0-1, while Chicago improves to 1-2-2.