RECAP: Gilberto Shines for Fire in 3-2 Road Loss to TFC

Photo by Jean-Yves Ahem – USA TODAY Sports

Photo by Jean-Yves Ahem – USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Fire was on the short end of a back and forth contest Saturday, as Toronto FC handed the Fire its fifth loss in a row and 18th on the year at BMO Field in Toronto.

It seemed like Chicago would have a good chance at winning its first road contest of 2015 after jumping out to an early 1-0 lead in the first minute of the match. Thanks to a good run and pass towards the middle of the box, Fire winger Patrick Nyarko linked up with center forward Gilberto for a quick touch and shot past TFC goalkeeper Chris Konopka. It was a dream start for the Fire, but it was all Toronto for the rest of the first half.

Sebastian Giovinco showed Chicago and everyone watching why he’s TFC’s seven million dollar man. Personally, I think it’s crazy anyone should be able to make that much money in less than a year, but he certainly showed his quality Saturday. Goalkeeper Jon Busch and the Chicago backline were hanging on for dear life as Giovinco constantly danced and passed his way through defenders.

The Italian striker produced a true showstopper when he flicked a pass towards the back post with the outside of his boot. It looked like Giovinco would be credited with a lovely olimpico-type goal from an impossible angle at first, but Jonathan Osorio barely flicked it with his head, and was credited with leveling the match at one a piece. Despite a barrage of Giovinco-led attacks, Chicago took a 1-1 tie into the half, and was lucky to do so.

Aside from the first minute of the match, the Fire looked lost in the first half. Interim coach Brian Bliss came out in a 4-4-1-1 formation, which is a slight deviation from the 4-4-2 so commonly preferred by the recently fired Frank Yallop. Chicago’s battle plan appeared to be a lot of counterattacking, aka, try to survive the onslaught of Giovinco and the killer Toronto attack, and then lob it forward and hope Fire winger David Accam runs onto it. That didn’t work out so well for the Fire in the first half.

Chicago regrouped and came out in the second period looking determined to maintain possession and dictate the pace of the match. Once again, the Fire started the half with a goal, and once again Gilberto found the net against his former club. With perhaps the best build-up play of the season, Chicago cut through the questionable TFC defense with a series of quick, controlled passes through the middle. Patrick Nyarko made a great turn and pass to Fire forward Mike Magee, who quickly delivered a direct ball to Gilberto. The Brazilian international and designated player made no mistake with his finishing move, as he put his side in the lead with a confident strike and goal.

Despite the noticeable improvement in attack, the situation went from bad to worse on defense for Chicago. The three-headed attacking monster of Giovinco, Michael Bradley and Jozey Altidore proved to be too much for a very shaky Fire defense. Bradley single-handedly shamed the entire Chicago defense in the second half by simply dribbling past everyone and willing the ball into the net to tie the match at 2-2. The U.S. international demonstrated why he’s one of the best American players of all time, and why TFC also shelled out big cash for him, as it did with Giovinco.

Bradley’s U.S. teammate and TFC striking partner Jozy Altidore put the finishing touches on the match, as the stocky forward produced a poacher’s goal of the highest order. Altidore gathered a lobbed pass from a late corner kick, and sharply poked it in the top of the net to seal the deal for the home side with a 3-2 score line.

The Men In Red showed plenty of promise Saturday, as they’ve done throughout most of the year. But much like the rest of 2015, the Fire ultimately couldn’t get the job done.

Chicago’s rooted to the bottom of the league table, and was officially knocked out of the playoff race earlier this week against Montreal. That doesn’t leave much to play for in these last three matches, but it’s important that Chicago finishes on a high note. It’s been a year to forget, but interim coach Brian Bliss and company will want to close the season with something to feel good about, not to mention his side could play spoiler to some supporter shield hopefuls.

One of those front-runners is the New England Revolution, and that’s the side Chicago will host at Toyota Park Saturday, October 3, at 7:30 p.m. CT. (My50 Chicago)