Sunday, August 21, 2011
Fire garner long-awaited win over Toronto
By Charlie Corr
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- The Toyota Park scoreboard was not a mirage.
The Chicago Fire finally found the win column for the first time in more than two months as they defeated Toronto FC, 2-0, on Sunday in front of 12,020 at Toyota Park.
Fire forward Dominic Oduro netted a 16th-minute goal, and defender Dan Gargan headed home a goal against his former Toronto team in the 69th minute to garner a long-awaited win for Chicago.
The Fire's Marco Pappa, Logan Pause and Dan Gargan celebrate Gargan's goal on Sunday night.
"It was huge. We needed it for team morale," Fire defender Cory Gibbs said. "We knew every week we've been playing well during that stretch and needed to get over that hump. Our perseverance is there. We pushed and we got the win. We needed it."
The Fire (3-7-15, 24 points) moved out of last place in the Eastern Conference, while Toronto (4-12-11, 23 points) shares last place with the New England Revolution.
Just how long had it been since a Fire victory? Chicago's previous win came on the road against the Columbus Crew on June 12. And the Fire's last home win was their home opener on March 26 against Sporting Kansas City.
"It's just great to get the win because I felt the team has played well, and sometimes things don't go your way," Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas said. "I felt in a game like today, we looked a little bit tired -- probably wasn't one of our better performances. We did create opportunities, but some things kind of went our way a little bit. They hit the post [twice]."
Oduro notched his team-leading eighth goal in the 16th minute for an early 1-0 advantage. Defender Gonzalo Segares had the assist from the left side. Segares' first cross attempt was blocked by Toronto captain Torsten Frings, but the ball went right back to Segares. He tried again and the ball went through and Oduro capitalized.
It was an important moment for Oduro, who missed a flurry of chances during the Fire's 1-1 draw against D.C. United on Thursday.
"He told me he was going to score three -- he only scored one, but that's OK," Klopas said, drawing some laughs in the press conference. "The thing with forwards, you've got to have that mentality. It's so much of a confidence thing."
Gargan stepped up from his defensive position to head in the Fire's second goal in the 69th. Pavel Pardo took the corner kick from the left side. The ball bounced in the box, and Gargan was there near the far right post to cash in with the goal.
The Fire traded Dasan Robinson to Toronto for Gargan and a 2012 MLS SuperDraft second-round selection, and Gargan's addition has paid off.
"[He's] just a solid guy that's got experience in the league that gives us depth and can step in and start," Klopas said. "He's a competitor and has got a great attitude every day and can play different positions on the field."
Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson made three saves for the clean sheet. And the defense had some luck on its side.
Toronto had its chances on the offensive end, and the Fire caught a break in the 51st minute. The Reds' Julian de Guzman hit the right post and the ball bounced out to Joao Plata, whose shot went just wide right of the frame. Toronto's Ryan Johnson also hit the right post in the 77th minute.
Gibbs made his first start since a groin injury in the opening minutes of the Fire's 1-1 draw against the Philadelphia Union on Aug. 3. Gibbs paired up with Jalil Anibaba at center back.
"There have been moments in previous games where second halves we've dropped off a little bit," Klopas said. "And I think [Gibbs] was able to pull the line closer and keep our team short, especially when we have pace on top. That gives us the ability to counter."
Analysis: The Fire have had so many matches this season where they have been close, and Chicago was deserving of this one to earn the three points.
Having Gibbs back in the fold was incredibly important, especially after the Fire have had some shaky defensive efforts during his absence. The Gibbs-Anibaba pairing looked good on the pitch, and Klopas said following the match that he definitely prefers having Anibaba in a central role instead of at right back.
It will be interesting to see how the team moves forward working Gibbs, Anibaba, Yamith Cuesta and Josip Mikulic into the center back pairing. Sunday's group certainly worked against Toronto.
The Fire still have a long way to go in order to work back into any type of postseason conversation with nine matches remaining. Earning something more than a draw was a much-needed psychological boost.