The Chicago Fire have been kings of the draw of late, posting their fourth straight stalemate on Saturday with a 2-2 decision against Toronto FC at BMO Field.
While the Fire (1-3-5) are in the midst of a seven-game winless streak, Chicago had to feel positive with coming away with a point on the road. The Fire overcame a 2-0 deficit against the Reds (2-4-5).
Despite the big deficit, the Fire had a great chance to take the lead in the 83rd minute. Daniel Paladini tried to chip the ball over Toronto goalkeeper Stefan Frei, but Frei came up with a huge save with his left glove to preserve the draw.
Frei and Fire goalkeeper Jon Conway each had six saves on the night.
The Reds got on the scoreboard first in the ninth minute with Joao Plata's second goal of the season for a 1-0 lead. The Fire defense was soft during Toronto's attack as Plata cut inside to his right past Fire defender Jalil Anibaba. Chicago defender Yamith Cuesta was late to step up above the box, and by then, Plata drove a low strike to the right side of the frame past Conway.
In the 47th minute, the Reds boosted their lead to 2-0 on a deep strike from Maicon Santos that trickled past Conway. The Fire gave the ball away in the midfield, and Santos decided to take a left-footed strike toward the near left post. Conway appeared to be on top of the shot, but he could not corral the ball and it bounced into the net.
"It was moving and I tried to do a good job of getting my body behind it," Conway said. "The ball dropped and it got through me, and the way these balls move nowadays, it is going to happen. But, I did my best to get behind it, the ball dropped and it went in."
The Fire had not pressured the Toronto defense effectively for much of the match, but that all changed in the 63rd minute when Barouch drew a foul against Jacob Peterson a few feet above the box. In the 64th, Pappa's free kick goal cut Toronto's lead to 2-1.
Pappa's strike went over Toronto's wall, clipped the crossbar and went into the back of the net. Frei did not really move much to his left as the ball was driven past him.
The Fire then found the equalizer in the 76th minute. Midfielder Corben Bone showed some confidence when he beat Toronto midfielder Dan Gargan to the right, opening up enough space to send in a cross toward the goal box. Frei got a glove on the ball, and it bounced toward Barouch who was running toward the left side of the goal. Barouch slipped a bit, but stayed composed enough to get his leg on the ball and direct it into the goal to tie the match at 2-2.
"I saw Corben isolated on the right side, he took his man and I was hoping he would get the ball across, and he did," Barouch said. "I was ready for it, I slipped and it came off my thigh and went in."
Analysis: The extent of the Fire's contributors during the second-half comeback probably was the most positive element for Chicago.
Bone's involvement in the match was a positive sign, not only because he had the game-winning assist, but because of his increasing activity in the offensive third. Fire head coach Carlos de los Cobos had been taking Bone out of the second half of previous matches, but Bone was instrumental in the second half at Toronto.
Barouch's goal was not the prettiest, but his involvement off the bench kept the pressure on against the Reds' defense.
You have to wonder what could have been, though, if Conway handled Santos' shot cleanly at the start of the second half. Not only was that a difference in preventing Chicago from a earning three-point road effort, but it also could change the line of thinking entering next Saturday's match at the Philadelphia Union.
Will Conway still be the first option in the net?
Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson is nursing a quad injury, so the discussion of the team's starting goalkeeper went away. That topic could pick up some steam following Conway's mishap that gave Toronto a 2-0 cushion. Conway took over for Johnson starting with a 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy on April 17.
Conway did have some slick conditions to deal with on Saturday, and he did make a couple of noteworthy saves, such as a 62nd-minute diving stop against Dicoy Williams' header off of a corner kick. But perhaps that one mistake has opened the door for Johnson to return to the starting gig.