John Thorrington has become Mr. Clutch for the Chicago Fire.
We all remember his goal in last year’s regular season finale against the Los Angeles Galaxy. Well, he delivered again, scoring a stoppage time game-winner to give the Fire a crucial 2-1 home victory against East rival (and Brian McBride allocation foe) Toronto FC.
The loss continued a worrisome slide for TFC, which has played a congested schedule of games and managed not to win any of them. Toronto’s continued quest for a reliable forward continues, with names being linked to the club at random. Whoever TFC signs needs to show up in a hurry because Toronto just might fall behind the pack in the East if it doesn’t straighten out.
SBI correspondents Stephen Wattles and Duane Rollins watched the match and gave us their take on the Fire’s victory on Saturday:
Last-minute winner caps perfect night for Fire
By STEPHEN WATTLES
It was the near perfect evening for the Fire to turn things around. The evening was warm but not the stifling summer heat that turns so many midseason MLS encounters into snore fests. Nice enough in fact that it wasn’t hard to ignore the Canadians who had shown up in the hundreds to once again drink as if they’ve never seen beer before.
And of course it was Cuauhtémoc Blanco bobble head night. That’s right, we all held in our hands little “likenesses” our hero and MLS’ greatest villain (the piece that allows the head to bobble is the long neck making it slightly challenging to recreate ‘Temoc in plastic). Though there’s no truth to the rumor that any of the dolls assaulted the police officer bobble heads shipped in from DC shortly before game time.
The good vibes continued shortly after kick-off as Chris Rolfe once again threw his hat in the ring for goal of the week with a lovely turn and blast from just outside the penalty area in the sixth minute.
The Fire created chance after chance throughout the first half and into the second but failed to capitalize on any of them. Though Chad Barrett missed his as usual, he wasn’t the only one as a couple of gilt edged misses by Blanco and another by John Thorrington began to make us thing we’d seen this act before.
After the Fire’s initial rush, the second half déjÃ vu began to really settle in. The Fire had less possession, were lying a little deeper, and the runs off the ball began to disappear. Then while the Fire too slowly made a substitution to replace an injured Gonzalo Segares, the lone man opponents fear in Toronto’s side, Amado Guevara, took advantage of the temporary man advantage. He laid the equalizer on a platter for 17-year-old rookie Abdus Ibrahim to show Barrett what he is supposed to do, and the Fire had once again given up their lead at home.
As opposed to the few prior games, being tied reignited the Fire instead of extinguishing their spirit. But after several more solid chances were answered by Greg Sutton, who I will feel much better about being named to the All Star roster in place of the deserved number two Jon Busch after all he did this night, we seemed bound to drive home disappointed.
Logan Pause had again showed that if the Fire are going to play with three attack minded midfielders he could be the unlikely key to the Fire’s season. Additionally, Daniel Woolard played extremely well at central defense and later wide on the left, a good sign with Segares on the bench next week with cards. Thankfully, their efforts would be rewarded with one more twist of the plot.
A fluky header fell behind the Toronto bunker a couple minutes into stoppage time and somehow Thorrington was the first to reach it and calmly dispatch it under Sutton’s onrushing frame to kick off the dance party at Toyota Park. It was just desserts for Thorrington who along with Wilman Conde were the best two Fire players on the field this night. It was also the break and ending that Fire fans, if not the players, needed after a rough stretch in the season.
Suddenly, perfect was back on. The second half of the season again looks like anything is possible. The drive home made that much sweeter by the thought of our friends from the 51st state and their nice
four nine-hour drive to think about whether they can show a little class on their next visit to Chicago. But, don’t worry; all will be forgiven when Uncle Mo sends us McBride’s rights on the cheap.
(Stephen Wattles responds to criticism of his piece after the TFC Supporter’s View)
Downward spiral getting painful for TFC
By DUANE ROLLINS
Losing we can handle. The Toronto faithful had plenty of practice in a challenging first season. But, this is a different type of losing.
When you’ve tasted success, seen your team ranked way up high on all those meaningless power ratings, and started to work out possible playoff match-ups in your head, it’s a bit more difficult to deal with the slow, painful slide down the table.
"We’ve had our growing pains" we complain to anyone that will listen. "We’re not supposed to be losing again."
But, yet as we grind through the hot, endless middle of the MLS season Toronto once again finds itself slumping. It’s not quite as bad as last year when June hope quickly faded into the reality of an 814 minutes goalless streak through July and August, but a ho-hum month has seen T.O. go from being near the top of the league to looking up at the playoff spots and staring down the embarrassing possibility of losing the Canadian championship (and CONCACAF Champions League spot that goes to it) to an USL team.
This, Reds fans are not used to. We learned to accept the inevitability of losing in 2007 when any other result was a bonus. But, after tasting success, and seeing what the team is capable of, it’s hard to accept that more shouldn’t be expected.
Especially on the road, where TFC can’t seem to catch a break. The TFC fan that tells you that they weren’t watching the last few minutes of last week’s disaster of a loss against the Fire with one eye closed is lying to you. You just knew that something bad would happen. Even after Toronto’s phenom Abdus Ibrahim scored on his debut to tie it up. You just knew it wouldn’t last. You could see it in the player’s faces as they tried to waste time and you could hear it in the supporter’s voices as they tried to sing out the doubt.
So it wasn’t a surprise when Marco Velez misplayed the ball to allow Chicago to break in and win on practically the last kick of the match. It just seemed right. At least a home date with San Jose loomed to possibly lift the spirits.
It’s cliche to label a game a "must win" but next Saturday’s clash with the ‘Quakes comes close. TFC needs to remember how to win. If it drops points against an expansion team, at home, it will be difficult to imagine Toronto being able to overcome it.
t, before then and now lies another challenge and another chance at redemption. With a Toronto win against the Montreal Impact next Tuesday, the Reds will advance to the Champions League. In a season where the playoffs are increasingly looking like a long shot, that competition could be what salvages things.
It’s a big week coming up in Toronto with San Jose, Montreal and some guy named Beckham coming to town to play West Ham. Toronto fans are eagerly looking forward to two of those games.
(Here is Stephen Wattles response to the criticism sent his way regarding this week’s Supporter’s VIew entry)
The response to my writing this week requires me to reply and in large part to apologize. Primarily to the TFC fans in attendance at Toyota Park last Saturday, but also to the TFC fans in general and other Fire fans who I don’t speak for.
Firstly, it is at least implicit that this piece and the concept of Supporters Views encompass one opinion viewed from one seat by one person and that seat doesn’t belong to Ives. So this is my opinion of viewing the fans in attendance. Additionally, not being a journalist I am not looking for additional sources to verify any comments I may make whether it be in the game or in the stands. Now this doesn’t excuse the four hour drive bit, which was just a matter of not going back to update the placeholder I threw in when writing the article with the actual time, on that count I am indeed stupid as charged.
As for the anthem, based on what I can read now those in attendance were not disrespectful of the US anthem as it was being sung. The sounds as I could hear at its start up were not those of singing along, if this was due to any of the circumstances mentioned above or that I jingoistically jumped to conclusions out of pride in my own country, I deeply apologize to those fans and thank you for going beyond respectful and singing along. And I thank Ives for updating my piece so as to not incorrectly represent the circumstances any longer than necessary.
I will to a degree stand by the classless behavior comment as there was plenty of it on display. Whether it be swearing, middle finger waving, or throwing things into adjoining sections there were plenty of boys behaving badly amongst the crew of Toronto fans. When those adjoining sections are obviously primarily composed of many families with young children I personally take a disfavorable view of that behavior and do deem it to be classless. You can also argue the ‘few bad apples’ angle if you choose but I think its the job of the group to keep such behavior in check or suffer being painted with a broad brush as I admittedly have here. Likewise I am not saying it is unique to TFC fans but I can say I have seen it consistently in both their visits to our stadium and the comments were about just that and not ‘away support in MLS’.
Supporting ones team is an emotional investment and those emotions aren’t always expressed positively particularly when in groups and particularly when large volumes of alcohol are involved. However, I don’t deem either of those facts to be an acceptable reason for this behavior and that is my opinion.
Other throw-away comments such as 51st state were meant in jest, but I understand how with everything else herein they simply made the piece more inflammatory. I think Toronto is a marvelous city and have personally spent a good deal of time in Toronto for both work and pleasure and always enjoyed it and its people immensely. I also think TFC is a great addition to the league and that its fans are great. However, I don’t think that this excuses bad behavior from being pointed out when it occurs. If you disagree I’m sure you will express that and its an opinion you’re entitled to.