The Chicago Fire rescued victory from the jaws of a disappointing draw on Saturday night as they beat Toronto FC 1-0 at Soldier Field.
It seemed like the two sides were set for a scoreless tie late on, with both struggling to finish off attacking moves in the final third. Then, in the blink of an eye, Kacper Przybyłko struck, grabbing a 90th minute winner to seal all three points for the hosts.
The opening stages of the contest were very even, with both teams having spells with the ball and potential openings in the final third. The first save came midway through the half, as Sean Johnson was forced to block a cross that redirected towards goal.
That was really it in terms of action in the first half. It wasn’t incredibly boring or anything, but neither side could really carve out any genuine opportunities.
Xherdan Shaqiri nearly pulled off a moment of magic at the start of the second half. He went for an acrobatic jumping scissor-kick, and he made good contact on the strike, but Johnson stood strong to make the save.
A big decision came with about 20 minutes to go when Brian Gutiérrez went down on the break. He tried to slip two defenders on the edge of the area, and there was some contact, but the referee chose not to call anything.
Toronto had their first real chance soon after, with Brandon Servania picking up the ball in a good area before ripping a shot towards frame. Chris Brady dealt with the danger, though, dropping low to make the save.
Chicago had their best look of the night so far in the 80th minute. The ball rolled right into the path of Jairo Torres, and he was in loads on space, but he blasted his attempt well over the bar.
The deadlock was finally broken at the death, and it was broken by the Fire. Miguel Navarro got down the line before hitting a cross right to the head of Kacper Przybyłko, and he did the rest, heading home to clinch a potentially big victory for his side.
What it means
This win kept up Chicago’s wonderful run of form, making it five wins from their last six games. They’re now solidly in a playoff spot, and there’s little reason to believe they’ll fall back down the line. It’s unfortunate for them that there’s now a break in play, but they still should have plenty of momentum for the rest of the season.
For Toronto, this was just another day at the office. They didn’t play too poorly, but they weren’t clinical enough in the final third, and it cost them. They desperately need this upcoming break, but it might be too little too late.
Notes and observations
I know it’s a morbid, dark bit of humor, but it is interesting to watch Franco Ibarra in midfield for Toronto while knowing that he did not want to be traded there.
The number 7 font on the back of MLS jersey’s is so nice, especially when it’s not next to any other numbers.
I am so lonely.
Sergii Boiko didn’t have the worst night of refereeing ever, but it’s clear that he still struggles in the role, and he messed up a few calls on the night.
There was a new wrinkle to the Fire’s attack, as Xherdan Shaqiri would sometimes drift to the left wing when Brian Gutiérrez ran inside. It opened up space for the former, but he couldn’t capitalize on it. The idea is there, though.
I will always miss Sean Johnson.
Chicago’s slowly starting to build a real atmosphere at Soldier Field, and that’ll only continue to grow if the team keeps winning. Who would’ve thought it’s that simple?
Jairo Torres could become a really useful first man off the bench. He can play in a few different roles, and he’s got a real ability on and off the ball. He just needs to put it all together now.
Jonathan Dean put in a good shift.
There’s still a decent amount of the season left to go, but it feels like Toronto’s campaign is done. They’re in too deep of a hole, and the chances of them going on any sort of run seems low. Even if they did go on a run it might not matter.
Man of the match – Kacper Przybyłko
Of course it was Kacper Przybyłko.
Like, no one could’ve actually expected Przybyłko to be the hero on the night. He had been dropped from the matchday 18 the previous game, fans had turned on him, and the whole situation was all looking quite bleak.
That all changed in a moment, though. The forward found space in the box, the ball came his way, and he buried it into the back of the net with a smart header. It wasn’t much, but it was enough.
No one knows what this all means for the future, but for now, it was a wonderful moment for both Przybyłko and the Fire.