Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/ USA Today Sports
By RYAN TOLMICH
With points at a premium in the hyper-competitive Eastern Conference, Toronto FC and the Chicago Fire had to settle for just one point apiece.
The two playoff contenders played to a 2-2 draw Saturday at BMO Field due to a 90th minute equalizer from Fire forward Quincy Amarkiwa. Amarikwa, who played for TFC prior to joining the Fire in 2013, was joined on the scoresheet by Robert Earnshaw and TFC’s Gilberto, as well as a Bakary Soumare own goal.
It was Soumare’s gaffe that got the game underway in the third minute with an own goal. The Malian international attempt a leaping header in an effort to clear away a cross from Justin Morrow. Unfortunately for Soumare, the ball soared towards the far post and past goalkeeper Sean Johnson as the hosts picked up an early 1-0 lead.
Toronto FC saw momentum build after taking the lead, as the hosts dominated play for long stretches with Michael Bradley and Dominic Oduro proving to be particularly hard to handle for the Fire defense.
The tides turned in the 65th minute with the Fire’s introduction of former TFC forward Robert Earnshaw, who joined the Fire just last week.
It took just five minutes for the Welshman’s introduction to pay dividends, as Earnhaw scored the equalizing goal in the 70th minute by heading home a cross from fellow Fire substitute Grant Ward.
Earnshaw’s addition was combatted by TFC substitute Luke Moore, who was sent in for Jermain Defoe in the 77th minute.
Moore’s addition also proved vital for his side, as the Englishman played helper on a 79th minute Gilberto finish that gave TFC the lead.
With Gilberto on a darting run through the midfield, Moore’s through ball sent the Brazilian in all alone towards the Fire goal. Gilberto proceeded to round Johnson and tap home into an open net, giving his side the 2-1 lead.
TFC’s advantage lasted until the 90th minute, when Amarikwa found a late equalizer that forced a split of the points.
Following an Earnshaw attempted bicycle kick, Amarikwa was on the back post to pounce on a Lovel Palmer cross. Amarikwa hit the ball first time, volleying the bouncing ball into the top corner to secure the draw.
With the draw, TFC and the Chicago Fire remain in third and eighth place, respectively. The Fire, who sit just five points out of a playoff spot, return to action Saturday against FC Dallas, while TFC take on the New England Revolution that same day.
Here are the match highlights: