By KURTIS LARSON
What's better than dismantling a conference rival in front of your home supporters for a 4-1 win? If you are Toronto FC, the fact that three players other than Dwayne De Rosario scored goals.
Toronto FC remained perfect at home with the story being Chad Barrett's ability to finally have the breakout performance he's been looking for since his arrival from the Fire in 2008. The forward's tireless work ethic remains the same but his ability to finish and sustain confidence in front of goal has been questioned in recent memory. The 25-year-old put those claims to rest taking his chances and putting the game out of reach at 4-1 in the 66th and 69th minutes.
"Everything else has been going pretty good and I'm pretty happy with my other play and overall strength," Barrett said. "It was all about putting some goals away and scoring two goals will help that confidence."
Both teams struggled through the opening 20 minutes failing to string together passes and present any real scoring threats. The conditions of the game, including gusty winds and steady rainfall, took away Chicago's target play making it difficult to find loan target man Brian McBride and play off the former U.S. international. Regardless of the poor play, TFC managed to break through midway through the first-half when Nick Labrocca scored a goal in the 24th minute that will undoubtedly be credited to the conditions.
On the opposite side of things, the conditions presented Chicago an early second-half goal when Logan Pause struck a wonder goal from range. Pause received and turned with the ball 30 yards from goal, unleashing a screamer that Stefan Frei had no chance on. The wind-aided, sure-bet goal of the year candidate saw the the Fire briefly back in it for the time being.
"Sometimes playing with the wind it's difficult to control the game and the ball," Preki said. "Chicago made it a little bit difficult for us by dropping in their half and we didn't move the ball as well as we can. They frustrated us for a while before we got one of those miracle, lucky goals."
What will surely have fans in Toronto talking this week is the performance of half-time substitute O'Brian White. White and Barrett interacted well together on TFC's third goal when, after beating Chicago's Wilman Conde, White unselfishly slid a square pass to Barrett for a tap in. It looks like the pair might be developing a dangerous relationship that could see De Rosario play more of a withdrawn playmaking role for TFC.
For Chicago it was a tale of disorganization and complacency. Holding TFC to one goal in a difficult first-half should have been viewed as a small victory as the Fire would come out with a strong wind advantage in the second half. However, in pushing for an equalizer, the Fire were exposed at the back all to often when TFC's White and Barrett tested the pace of Wilman Conde and C.J. Brown. Many of Toronto's second-half chances were a result of man advantages in getting behind the Fire's back four.
TFC's ability to keep the ball and string passes together was something Chicago was missing throughout the game. All three of Toronto's second-half goals came from midfield buildups that were orchestrated by quick, cutting passes and the ability to possess the ball on the ground.
"I told the group at half-time that it's probably going to be easier for us to move the ball and put the ball on the ground," Preki said. "Sometimes when the wind is blowing in your face it's easier to play. We wanted to play the ball on the ground as much as we could."
Fire coach Carlos de los Cobos will get back to the practice pitch as soon as he can to iron out some formation issues that might be to blame. Luckily for the Fire, some upcoming friendlies against Paris St. Germain and A.C. Milan at the end of May might be an opportunity to work out the kinks in a squad that has earned just eight points out of a possible 21. With players like Justin Mapp and Collins John not having the kind of impact Chicago had hoped for, the break might be just what's needed.
For Toronto FC, securing three home points was paramount heading into a road spell that will see them make cross-continent flights three times over the next three weeks. TFC face the Montreal Impact in its second of four Canadian Cup games Wednesday before heading to the The Home Depot Center next weekend to face the unbeaten Galaxy. The Fire head to Kansas City to face a slumping Wizards side that will be hungry to get back on track following defeats at Houston and D.C.