|Toronto FC's Maicon Santos heads the ball during Saturday's game against Chicago Fire. (ALEX UROSEVIC/QMI Agency)
TORONTO - Toronto FC has had some disappointing results so far this season, but Saturday’s 2-2 draw with the Chicago Fire might be the toughest to swallow.
The Reds appeared to have the match well in hand when captain Maicon Santos beat beleaguered former TFC backup Jon Conway for a 2-0 bulge early in the second half.
But instead of deflating completely when Conway allowed the stinker, instead, Conway’s teammates rallied around him and fought back to earn the draw.
Young Joao Plata had been the catalyst again early for TFC — which completely dominated the play in one of its best first halfs of the season.
Plata beat Cory Gibbs, Diego Chaves and Jalil Anibaba before firing a hard strike past Conway in the 9th minute.
It was the second home game in a row that both Plata and Santos had scored for Toronto.
The Toronto attack wasn’t quite as blistering after the Plata goal, but the team still outchanced the Fire, who could only get a couple of middling attempts at Stefan Frei. The shots through 45 minutes read 10-9 for Toronto, but that didn’t reflect the Reds’ dominance.
Instead of buckling when he allowed a hard shot from Santos to somehow squeeze through him minutes into the second half, Conway regained his composure and made a handful of fine stops.
Most important, was a 62nd minute save of a header by Dicoy Williams.
It was timely, as the Fire marched the other way for a chance and Marco Pappa put away a brilliant free kick to the top left corner to cut the deficit in half.
A win that seemed in the bag, turned into a demoralizing tie when Dan Gargan and Julian de Guzman were beaten by Chaves, who slid a ball through that Frei deflected right to a diving Orr Barouch. Barouch kneed home the equalizer, stunning the crowd of 18,674.
Toronto almost completely gave the game away, but got a huge break when Frei somehow got a piece of a Dan Paladini attempt with the midfielder inexplicably left wide open in the 83rd minute.
Though head coach Aron Winter had said on Friday he had not been playing defender Nana Attakora because he felt others were performing better this season, surprisingly, with defenders Danleigh Borman and Mikael Yourrasowky unavailable, Winter elected to not even put Attakora on the bench.
Seeing Ty Harden as the only pure defender on the sidelines was a surprise and did nothing to alleviate the belief that Attakora’s benching is a result of a contractual issue, not a performance one.
Souring the night even more, De Guzman picked up a foolish yellow in the 26th minute and will be suspended for next Saturday’s game against the Colorado Rapids due to yellow card accumulation.
The designated player will be available for Wednesday’s first leg of the final of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship in Vancouver, however.