TORONTO – It takes some savvy to come to BMO Field and not leave empty handed, especially after falling behind by two goals.
The Chicago Fire did just that on Saturday afternoon, scoring twice in the final 20 minutes to salvage a 2-2 draw against Toronto FC.
“It was very intense,” said Fire head coach Veljko Paunovic post-match. “This is the reason why we love this game.”
“When you have games like this, sometimes, even when you [don't] win, you feel happy coming back against a great team, reigning champions,” continued Paunovic. “A huge performance [from] the guys. The effort they showed in this game makes you feel very satisfied. Very proud of the effort, proud of the reaction.”
Added Bastian Schweinsteiger: “Great reaction, great spirit, especially the players who came in, helped us a lot. We deserved that point... at least.”
To do so, the Fire relied upon a pair of veterans: Schweinsteiger himself and Alan Gordon.
The German midfielder began the match in the middle of the backline, but once the tables turned and TFC jumped to a two-goal lead, he was advanced further up the pitch in search of pockets of space within which to foster attacks, drifting left or right, whatever the situation called for, wherever the space presented itself.
“We started with Bastian in the backline and then we wanted to have more midfielders,” explained Paunovic of the change. “We wanted to dominate the midfield. We advanced [his] position, something he is capable of doing, playing in different roles in the organization of the attack.”
“Today, he had goal, had an assist; impact in the final third,” added Paunovic. “These are why he had a fantastic career in Europe and with the national team. These are the qualities that [make us] happy that we have him here.”
Said Schweinsteiger: “The result changed, so we had to change and I played higher up. It depended on the first goal and the second goal.”
Gordon, who came on late and scored even later to earn the point against one of his former clubs was the difference maker in the end, nearly converting moments before finding the back of the net deep in stoppage-time.
“He brings everything in every game,” praised Paunovic. “He knew he had 15 minutes to play, he put everything on the field: his heart, his experience, his quality. He's a specialist in these situations. Two times he was close to scoring; that's what you expect from somebody who has so much experience.”
Added Schweinsteiger, who helped set up the late strike: “He's very dangerous, especially when you cross the ball into the box.”
After a difficult start to the campaign, the Fire have put together a pair of impressive road results over the past week: winning 2-1 at the New York Red Bulls last weekend and the draw in Toronto.
“Very satisfied with this progression,” proclaimed Paunovic. “This group is growing, is getting better, is building; getting points, good results. Getting points in these hard games is huge progress for the team.”