The first big road test for the Fire in the new Schweinsteiger era didn’t turn out well. Toronto FC, the presumed class of the Eastern Conference, handled Chicago reasonably easily en route to a 3-1 victory over the visitors. Their game plan wasn’t difficult to guess coming in. Crowd Schweinsteiger, attack the right side, and test the goalkeeper at any opportunity. It worked and the Fire are likely to face more of the same tactics, particularly on the road.
The first twenty minutes of the match provided some decent play from Chicago but the final ball was lacking before Giovinco scored in the 28th to put them in catch-up mode. From there on out, the Fire didn’t have much chance as Toronto generated 18 shot attempts. What looked like a missed handball in the penalty area in the 72nd might have gotten them back into the match, but Toronto was clearly better on the night.
Chicago now has one win in their last nine matches against Toronto FC, who they will face again in August.
The next three contests should be a pretty good indication of how far the Fire have come with road games against the New York Red Bulls and struggling Los Angeles Galaxy before returning home to face the Seattle Sounders.
One loss, on the road to Toronto isn’t much reason to dash any playoff hopes just yet. There’s a long way to go, but the questions about the defense and goalkeeping have existed since January. If this game is an indication, there aren’t any answers there at the moment.
GK Jorge Bava (4.5) – Credited with six saves but most were easily handed long distance attempts. Slow on his feet and off his line in both of the first two goals. Got a fingertip on the third goal but Giovinco had nowhere to go but upper corner in the attempt from 24 yards out, and he was still slow to get there. Did well go get a fingertip on Altidore’s close range shot in the dying seconds.
D Michael Harrington (4) – Did provide a couple of acceptable crosses in the early going but after the talk during most of the lead-up to this game centered around not giving Giovinco space….he gave him space and it resulted in the first goal. Failed to close down the right side on the second goal. A handful of giveaways helps accentuates why the Fire need another plan at right back.
D Johan Kappelhof (5) – A lot of scrambling to cover space. He will continue to accumulate yellow cards as long as he’s sprinting to recover vacated areas on the right side.
D Joao Meira (5) – Mixed bag with 2 clearances and 4 recoveries but also some shaky moments against Altidore.
D Brandon Vincent (5.5) – Some success getting forward and will continue to be involved as long as Schweinsteiger is playing generally on the left. His defensive game is aided by opposition attacking on the other side.
M Dax McCarty (5) – The Fire won the overall possession battle (55-45) and completed 82% of their passes but TFC had control of the match after about the 20th minute. Bradley and TFC were more effective in the middle of the pitch. Give away led to Altidore chance in the 77th.
M Juninho (5) – Chicago completed passes and had some possession but only mustered one shot on target in nine attempts. Juninho had on long distance try in the 9th. Giovinco found success in the middle in spaces that should have been covered by him, however.
M Bastian Schweinsteiger (5.5) – Nowhere near as effective as he was in his three previous matches. Did provide a few glimmers with a couple of passes/crosses but nothing significant.
M Michael de Leeuw (5) – As he’s asked to play out wide, the most effective part of his game with movement off the ball around goal is somewhat negated. Seldom involved in this match.
M Luis Solignac (5.5) – Picked up an assist on the only goal, set up Schweinsteiger for a failed return pass in the 56th. A couple of give aways didn’t help.
F Nemanja Nikolic (5) – An early goal was negated, rightfully by an offside call. Never involved much after that. Had to attempt to cover space vacated by Harrington on the third goal.
M David Accam (5.5) – Replaced de Leeuw in the 61st and scored the only goal to keep the score line respectable.
M Daniel Johnson (5) – Subbed in for Nikolic in the 70th. Highlight was a good sequence in the 73rd which led to a shot attempt but also committed at least two fouls after being dispossessed.
M Arturo Alvarez (5) – Came on for Schweinsteiger in 84th.