Second-half goals by Jozy Altidore, Jonathan Osorio and Sebastian Giovinco gave Toronto FC a much-needed 3-0 win Saturday over the Chicago Fire.
After a poor first half, Toronto hit high gear and began to play with some of the swagger that marked its 2017 championship season — much to the delight of the sellout crowd of 29,190 at BMO Field.
It was the first home win in league play for Toronto (6-11-4) since May 18 when it beat Orlando 2-1. Chicago (6-12-5) has now lost five straight — with just one win in its last nine games (1-5-3).
Coach Greg Vanney switched formations to kick-start his team in the second half, replacing fullback Ashtone Morgan with midfielder Marky Delgado in a bid to go forward rather than backward.
The strategy change worked, with Toronto going after Chicago.
Altidore's 52nd-minute goal came after a wild scramble. Giovinco fed Osorio and the Canadian midfielder's cross caused mayhem in the box. Goalkeeper Richard Sanchez blocked Delgado's low header but could not corral the ball, with Victor Vazquez and Justin Morrow unable to knock the ball in.
But Altidore made no mistake from close range for his third of the season.
The burly U.S. international, who has played just five games in a season interrupted by foot surgery, celebrated by taking off his orange boot and pretending to use it as a phone — presumably to spread the news of his first goal since March 30.
Osorio made it 2-0 in the 72nd minute after a Vazquez cross found Giovinco in the penalty box. The diminutive Italian kicked up his leg to get the high ball and somehow managed to send the ball over to a lunging Osorio, who poked it in.
It was Osorio's 14th goal in all competitions this season — and his fourth in as many games.
Giovinco, who hit the woodwork earlier in the half, scored in the 89th minute with a shot that deflected in off defender Kevin Ellis.
Toronto started the day in 10th spot in the Eastern Conference, four points behind eighth-place Chicago and nine points in arrears of sixth-place New England, which held down the last playoff spot.
Prior to the game, Vanney said his team likely had to win nine of its 14 remaining games to make the playoffs. Of the 13 games left, eight are against East opposition. Four of those are against the top three teams in the conference: Atlanta, New York City FC and the New York Red Bulls.
Toronto beat Chicago 2-1 last weekend at Toyota Park, a victory that snapped a six-game league winless streak (0-4-2). It marked TFC's first win since June 8.
Toronto fielded a strong lineup, making eight changes from the team that beat Ottawa 3-0 midweek in the second leg of the Canadian Championship semifinal. Vazquez, who has been nursing a knee issue, made his first start since June 24.
It was 0-0 at the end of a entirely forgettable first half that saw both teams guilty of sloppy giveaways.
Morrow had the best early chance, but his 20th-minute header went wide. It took 38 minutes for the first shot on target, a long-range effort from Chicago's Brandt Bronico that goalkeeper Alex Bono pushed away.
A frustrated Giovinco was yellow-carded late in the first half for punting the ball away after disagreeing with a decision by referee Joseph Dickerson. Altidore had to push Giovinco toward the tunnel at halftime as the Italian, rubbing the back of his head after colliding with a Chicago defender, berated the referee for the no-call.
Altidore, who had just 10 touches in the first half, came off to a standing ovation in the 80th minute.
Chicago started former TFC players Raheem Edwards and Nico Hasler down the left flank. Fellow Toronto alumni Alan Gordon and Tony Tchani were on the bench.
Toronto has won eight of the last nine meetings (8-0-1) between the two. The Fire's last victory in the series came April 4, 2015, a 3-2 win at Toyota Park that capped a 12-game Chicago undefeated streak in the series (6-0-6) dating back to 2010.
The ban on supporter group privileges continued for Inebriatti, U-Sector and Original 109. It was business as usual for the Red Patch Boys, Kings in the North and Tribal Rhythm Nation.
The south stand was fuller than for the midweek game but it was more subdued than normal.
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