TORONTO — Toronto FC treated the 20,060 brave souls, who made it out to BMO Field Saturday afternoon, to a rare treat.
A blowout win by the home side.
With both squads fighting what was at times brutal conditions, the Reds (3-4-0, 3-0-0 at home) turned it on in the second half, rolling to a 4-1 victory over the Chicago Fire.
Chad Barrett, O’Brian White and Dwyane De Rosario starred for TFC, which finally revved its engine up to full bore for the first time this season.
Barrett, who played down the thrill of excelling against the team that traded him, scored twice to break open a 2-1 game. White added a goal and a fine setup and De Rosario facilitated two goals and was a force after a nonchalant first half.
Chicago might be the windy city, but strong gusts of up to 80 km/h coming off of Lake Ontario knocked most balls out of the air. The cold and a light drizzle early didn’t help matters.
De Rosario, who said it was “freezing” out on the pitch, also said the team was better down the stretch because it recognized the limitations the blowing wind presented.
“Because the wind was against us, we really understood that we had to keep the ball on the ground and that’s what worked in our favour,” De Rosario said.
TFC head coach Preki tossed the Fire a curve ball by benching regulars White, Martin Saric and Raivis Hscanovics to start the game.
The shuffling worked from a defensive standpoint in the first half which saw TFC outshoot Chicago 3-1. Nick LaBrocca scored his first goal as a member of TFC when his 24th-minute shot curved spectacularly past a stunned Andrew Dykstra.
“I was trying to whip it into the back post and the wind took it in there,” LaBrocca said.
The first half lacked flow as both teams tried to adapt to the challenging conditions. The contest’s two premier offensive players — Chicago captain Brian McBride and Toronto counterpart De Rosario — barely touched the ball in the first 45 minutes.
De Rosario came alive in the second half, setting up the newly substituted White for the game’s second goal in the 47th minute.
On his back, White two-footed a tap-in that Dykstra could not quite knock out. Barrett had started the play, getting the ball to White. He then moved it on to De Rosario, who made a great return pass back to White.
The goal woke up the Fire, particularly Logan Pause. Pause rifled a long shot past Stefan Frei in the 50th minute, briefly silencing the BMO faithful.
Chicago created chances late but was over-passing. Instead of capitalizing on good opportunities to shoot, Chicago’s players twice opted to make poor passes.
TFC took advantage, starting with White, who made a brilliant play, turning around elite defender William Conde, before sending a pass that Barrett converted for his first goal of the season.
Less than three minutes later, De Rosario made an excellent pass through the middle to Barrett. The striker made no mistake, left-footing a shot past Johnson and the rout was on.
“The way we moved the ball was nice to see,” Preki said. “When we play (that way) we can be very potent and dangerous.”
The defence was solid as well. Nana Attakora knocked away a dangerous ball, leading directly to Barrett’s second score at the other end.
“We won all the fights for the ball, didn’t give them any critical chances,” De Rosario said.
The road now beckons for TFC which will meet Montreal on Wednesday, the L.A. Galaxy on Saturday and the Vancouver Whitecaps the following Wednesday before returning home May 24th.