BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – The Chicago Fire were denied a third victory of the 2014 season by a resilient and dogged Toronto FC defense, who played with ten men for more than an hour to earn a 1-1 tie at Toyota Park on Wednesday.
After a poor first half in which they found themselves a goal down due to Jackson’s 42nd-minute header, the Fire attacked in waves in the second period but failed to breakdown the diligent Toronto defense after rookie sensation Harry Shipp had leveled the tie midway through the second half.
Toronto survived an early penalty claim by Mike Magee when he appeared to have his standing right leg taken from under him by Steven Caldwell early in a largely uneventful opening 30 minutes.
But in the 29th minute, the game was turned on its head when Toronto’s Luke Moore was shown a straight red card for an elbow to the head of Chris Ritter. Although Moore and TFC staff and players vehemently argued with the call, referee Sorin Stoica was resolute in his decision.
From that point, the hosts failed to make their numerical advantage count, although Quincy Amarikwa did drive a shot into the side-netting after a slip by Caldwell in the 40th minute.
Two minutes later, the visitors deservedly took the lead their first half efforts merited when Jackson, unmarked and in acres of space at the back post, headed home a right-wing cross from Jermain Defoe.
The hosts came out with much more intent after the break and they almost found an equalizer when they piled into the Toronto area in the 52nd minute, Lovel Palmer finally directing the ball into Toronto goalkeeper Joe Bendik’s grateful arms after Alex’s initial shot.
Magee then had a free kick well saved by Bendik in the 54th minute before a right-wing center from Ward saw Amarikwa head narrowly wide.
Shipp then pulled the Fire level in the 57th minute when he cut inside from the left and unleashed an unstoppable shot past Bendik on an assist from Magee. That brought the impressive rookie’s stats to six goals and four assists in MLS play.
Defender Bakary Soumare looked like he had given the Fire the lead with his first touch after hammering Magee’s through ball home in the 73rd minute, but the Ecuadorian was ruled offside. 10 minutes later, Bendik pulled down a cross from Shipp that looked destined to go in the back of the net, with a Fire teammate making a run to the far post.
Chances came and went for the hosts, but Ryan Nelson’s well-drilled defense held firm to ensure a share of the spoils and consign the Fire to their ninth draw of the campaign.
Toronto had a late chance on a counterattack, and Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson's fingertip save prevented Dominic Oduro from grabbing an unlikely road victory against one of his former teams.
The next stop for the Fire is a trip to Sporting Kansas City on Sunday afternoon, while Toronto host DC United on Saturday evening.