By JEFFREY KRAUSE
BRIDGEVIEW, IL- The Chicago Fire returned to Toyota Park Saturday night to take on Toronto FC, relying on a game-winning header from rookie standout Austin Berry late in the 2nd half. The win extends Chicago's unbeaten streak at home against Eastern Conference opponents, while also giving the Fire more wins on the season than either of their previous two campaigns.
Berry continues to impress, as the centerback netted his third goal of the season for the game winner in the 84th minute off a Pavel Pardo free kick. The rookie has scored three goals this year and continues to make waves in the league as he vies for Rookie of the Year honors for both his goal-scoring ability on set pieces, as well as his solid defending.
“I pride myself on being good in the air," said the rookie after the game. "I want to be dangerous on every attacking set piece, and I have to take care of all of my opportunities. There are so few chances for me to score and I was able to do that tonight. “
Toronto wasn't able to mount much offense throughout the match, however Ryan Johnson took advantage of a botched Marco Pappa back pass in the 16th minute by collecting the ball and surging into the box for a 1v1 chance against Sean Johnson. There was little Johnson could do as the TFC striker slotted it home to give Toronto the early lead.
In spite of the loss, Toronto coach Paul Mariner seemed content with his team's perfomance after the game. "I thought we were looking pretty comfortable to be honest. We kept the ball in front of us. I thought that Frank would make a couple changes and he did. It didn’t really turn the game. You've got to hold your hand up and say that you can’t give decent teams opportunities like we gave them."
Chicago struggled through much of the middle of the match to find their footing after a strong start. It wasn't until a failed Toronto clearance in the 64th minute when Marco Pappa would redeem his error earlier in the match. The Guatemalan international collected the ball in the box and charged towards the endline to beat Toronto keeper Milos Kocic with a tough angled shot into the side netting to equalize. Toronto endured the final 25 minutes on their back foot, eventually going down a man in the late minutes, as Chicago continued to press offensively before ultimately going ahead for good on Berry's header. The win gives Chicago a 7-2-2 record, setting them towards the top of the league for home wins on the season.
Chicago heads on the road next to face another revamped Eastern Conference foe in the Philadelphia Union, while Toronto continues their road trip as they face Columbus Crew next weekend.
Here are the match highlights: