By KURTIS LARSON
TORONTO — Toronto FC overcame terrible weather conditions that may have been the worst ever seen at BMO Field to record a surprising 4-1 victory against the Chicago Fire on Saturday.
TFC forward Chad Barrett punished his former team, scoring two goals to help Toronto improve to 3-4 and move into third place in the East. Chicago dropped to 2-3-2 and continue to struggle finding their footing under new coach Carlos de los Cobos.
Steady rain with gusts blowing at 40 mph were a recipe for disaster in the opening stages. Both teams proceeded with shaky starts with poor touches and balls skipping out of play frequently. Toronto FC attempted long, hopeful balls over the top while Chicago were never really in sync from the outset.
With a massive wind at their backs, Toronto FC were the first to settle down and look dangerous on the attack. In the 23rd minute, a long ball from TFC's back four skipped through to an onrushing Dwayne De Rosario whose shot was blocked over the crossbar. The ensuing corner kick was cleared to a waiting Julian De Guzman, who sent it wide to Nick LaBrocca. The winger one timed a wind-aided cross that wrong footed Andrew Dykstra and dipped just beneath the crossbar for a 1-0 TFC lead.
Chicago's creative tandem of Marco Pappa and Patrick Nyarko saw little of the ball as the weather seemed to negate their consistent and creative play. Pappa did get Chicago's best first-half chance in the 32nd minute after TFC were whistled for a foul near the corner of the box. The Guatemalan lashed a swerving, knee-high cross into the six-yard-box that called for a reflex save from Toronto FC's Stefan Frei. It would be Chicago's only real scoring opportunity heading into the half.
The Fire's Carlos de los Cobos would switch his formation heading into the second half to a 4-4-2 from a 4-5-1 bringing on Collins John to spark the Fire's offense. However, TFC's Preki would make changes of his own in advance of the second half altering his formation by bringing on an extra forward. His decision to bring on O'Brian White paid dividends right out of the gates as White scored from inside the six yard box in the 47th minute. After receiving a ball from Barrett on the wing, White turned and played it to the opposite side for a streaking De Rosario, who slotted it back across for White's second tally of the year.
Chicago didn't wait long to answer though as midfielder Logan Pause unleashed a rifle from close to 30 yards out that caught hold of the wind and swerved over the top of an outstretched Stefan Frei. The wonder strike silenced the Toronto faithful that saw their lead cut in half in the 51st minute giving the Fire confidence that they could get a point or more out of the contest.
Pause's strike didn't faze Toronto however who continued to handle the conditions much better than their counterparts. In the 66th minute TFC's White beat the Fire's Wilman Conde to a ball, pushing it around the veteran defender for a two-on-one break. White picked out Barrett in the box who calmly slotted it past a helpless Dykstra extending the lead once again to 3-1.
Just three minutes after his first of the year, Barrett scored his second of the game when De Rosario took a ball off his chest before slotting a pass that split Chicago's back four. Barrett ran onto the pass and chipped the ball over the Chicago keeper making it 4-1 and ensuring an important three points for the home side.
Toronto FC remain perfect at home and play their next four out of five games away from BMO. The Fire has a somewhat odd schedule over the next few weeks playing mid-season friendlies before returning to MLS action with three straight home games.
Here are the match highlights: