Having collected a turnover deep in Chicago's half in the waning minutes of the game, Julian de Guzman had a choice as he bared down on goal: Shoot or pass to a teammate.
Toronto’s Designated Player opted to send a cross toward teammates Dwayne De Rosario and Maicon Santos as they closed in on the Fire goal. However, the pass fell meekly behind both and to the feet of a Chicago defender, who took it back up field.
That chance typified the night for Toronto FC, who tied the Fire, 0-0, on Wednesday at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill. The game marked Toronto’s third straight league game without a goal.
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“It’s definitely is a big point, but I think we should have came out with a win, but we’ll take the point,” Toronto captain Dwayne De Rosario told Rogers Sportsnet after the game. “It pushes us up a little bit, we have another important game coming up against DC on Saturday.
"In all fairness, we had a couple of good chances, but in the end we’ll take the point and move forward.”
Losing an opportunity to steal a win and a critical three points, Toronto gained a mere point to move clear into ninth place overall. However, they’re still four points behind both San Jose and Seattle for the eighth and final playoff spot with seven games to play.
Chicago sit in 11th with 26 points.
[inline_node:317924]Toronto FC have struggled on the road, so a point would otherwise be a welcome result. But not in a must-win game against a team below them in the standings.
Toronto started the game aggressively controlling much of the play in the first half before Chicago realized they were facing a team desperate to score and win.
In the end, Toronto outshot Chicago 15-14 and out-fouled them 23-7.
Chicago actually had the better chances, including a glorious one midway through the second half. Freddie Ljungberg perfectly timed a run and was sent in alone, onside, on Toronto goalkeeper Stefan Frei before sending a low shot wide of the far post.
Defender Dan Gargan was one of TFC’s top players on the night in a game befitting his hard-nosed style.
Seemingly taking matters into his own hands, Gargan drove up the middle and sent a drive over the crossbar in the 72nd minute. Two minutes later, Gargan was part of a scoring chance when his long sideline throw-in eventually found its way to O'Brian White, who blasted a shot to force Johnson into making a point-blank save.
Moments later, Gargan punctuated his performance with a move that would make any hockey fan proud, body-checking a Fire midfielder to hold possession.
Normally that kind of initiative leads to good fortune, but Toronto were robbed of it on two occasions where penalties could have been called on hand balls.
Regardless, if Toronto want any chance of making the playoffs, they have to continue to show initiative and take the play to their opponents.
With games against struggling D.C. United and Houston the next two Saturdays, TFC have their best chance to make up ground. Then, with matches against San Jose and Seattle following, Toronto can control their own destiny.
Anything less and TFC will miss the playoffs for the fourth straight season.
“We can't lose anyone right now, we need as much guys as possible,” De Rosario said. “We do have a little bit of injuries in important positions. We've got to carry on with it and, hopefully, the guys that do get their chances are 100 percent ready and focused and take the opportunities.
“Every game from now on is a playoff for me.”