Sunday, August 20, 2017

Toronto FC 3 at Chicago Fire 1 - August 19, 2017


When I first planned this trip last year, the MLS schedule wasn't out yet, so I figured I'd have Saturday night free after the Jays and Cubs. I then completely forgot about the MLS until a couple of weeks before my departure, when I happened to be sniffing around, and wouldn't you know it?! Toronto FC was visiting the Chicago Fire on the same day that the Blue Jays were at the Cubs. A Toronto road doubleheader! Truly a blessing from the sports scheduling gods.



The Fire play out of Toyota Park in Bridgeview, and you can get there on public transit, with an express shuttle taking you from Midway Airport station. One thing to note is that this shuttle is run by PACE and requires a separate $2 fare both ways, so it will cost you $8.50 round trip including the CTA train fare (you can save a bit with a Ventra Card). As parking is $20, this is still a better option than driving if you have two people, particularly considering the postgame traffic.



It took 100 minutes to get from Wrigley and we arrived about an hour before kickoff. The venue is still dubbed Toyota Park even though the naming rights agreement has expired; the city of Bridgeview is looking for another firm to take over as they desperately need the revenue. For some reason, they expected that a soccer stadium in the middle of nowhere would lead to development, but that has not transpired and now the taxpayers are getting gouged as the city tries to pay off the debt incurred from constructing the facility. A perfect example of why new sports venues benefit nobody but the team owners.



The Fire have had some success, particularly in their early years, and these accomplishments are commemorated on banners out front. The team started in 1997-98 and won the MLS Cup that year, as well as several US Open Cups since then.



We walked around to the west side, where there is a large activity area with games and some concession stands. From there, you can head up to the west seating area, which includes a small upper deck, which is where we sat.



We did a quick tour of the concourse, stopping at Fan Services to pick up the designated driver coupon (RC Cola is served here!) and a pack of commemorative playing cards, with each one representing a player who has donned the Fire uniform in their first 20 years. The view from the southwest corner is below, with the only scoreboard in the distance. The away seating section is the corner area in the middle of the photo; as Toronto fans we should have sat there but I much prefer to see the game from a better angle.



We had a good overview of the pitch from our seats. As the match was sold out, we bought on the secondary market, getting a good deal a few days beforehand, which was fortunate because there wasn't much available on game day.



There were a few other fans dressed in Blue Jay colours, but not as many as I expected. I suspect that many were not even aware of this battle, or didn't want to bother making the trip. That's too bad, because they missed the best game of the weekend, at least from a Toronto point of view.

The Match

Toronto FC came in with the best record in the league while Chicago was third, making this a marquee matchup. TFC opened the scoring in the 14th minute when Marco Delgado had an easy knock-in after Fire keeper Matt Lampson (in sky blue below) couldn't corral a Nick Hasler shot.



Early in the second half, Chicago knotted things up when Bastian Schweinsteiger drilled a shot off the post that rebounded to David Accam who kneed it home in the 54th minute. But TFC got that back just 9 minutes later when Hasler headed home a Victor Vasquez volley (well, it was a cross, but the alliteration works so well). As the minutes ticked down, the Fire had chances to tie and were on the attack late when Toronto launched a quick counter that resulted in a 2-on-1. Tosaint Ricketts fed Sebastian Giovinco for the easy goal to seal the match as TFC salvaged an otherwise lost Toronto weekend with an entertaining 3-1 victory.



Notes

This was my first TFC match live and I hope it won't be the last. MLS soccer is not as technically proficient as the European game, but it can be fun, especially when your team actually wins!

Best,

Sean

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