MLS Snapshot: Toronto FC 2-2 Chicago Fire

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[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4-Wo8lWngc]

One game, 100 words (or less): A strong start for Toronto quickly faded into a game of few chances, one that allowed the visiting Fire to stay close to their favored hosts. With second half equalizers from former Reds Robert Earnshaw and Quincy Amarikwa, Chicago was able to move on from last week’s disastrous results, scavenging a well-earned point on the road with its 2-2 draw.

Goals

Toronto FC: Bakary Soumaré (o.g. 3′), Gilberto (79′)
Chicago: Robert Earnshaw (70′), Quincy Amarikwa (90′)

Three moments that mattered

3′ – Wrong way, Bakary – Toronto came out crisp, its quick passing matching the precise movement that left Chicago chasing the game. In the third minute, that passing put Justin Morrow behind the defense on the left flank, where a cross toward the edge of the six was misplayed by Bakary Soumaré. After two minute, Chicago looked destined for another disappointing result.

70′ – What about Bob – Robert Earnshaw’s first appearance of the season happened to come against his old team, with Chicago’s newest attacker looking to make an an instant on his Fire debut. Minutes after entering the game, the former Red did just that, cutting across goal at the edge of the six to mean a Grant Ward cross. His finish put his team in position to steal an unlikely result.

90′ – Toronto blows it – When Gilberto restored Toronto’s lead in the 79th minute, sanity seemed to be restored, though given how little the Reds had produced going forward (held to two shots on target all day), the 2-1 scoreline was a fortunate one.

In the 90th minute, Quincy Amarikwa snatched that fortune and turned it into failure, converting after a Lovel Palmer cross (and failed Earnshaw bicycle kick) found him at the far post. Forgotten, Amarikwa one-timed his right-footer into the top of Joe Bendik’s net, giving Chicago the 2-2 result.

Lineups

Toronto FC: Joe Bendik; Mark Bloom, Steven Caldwell (Doneil Henry 22′), Nick Hagglund, Justin Morrow (Jackson 58′); Dominic Oduro, Michael Bradley, Collen Warner, Jonathan Osorio; Gilberto, Jermain Defoe (Luke Moore 77′)
Chicago: Sean Johnson; Lovel Palmer, Jeff Larenotwicz, Bakary Soumaré, Gonzalo Segares; Sanna Nyassi (Robert Earnshaw 65′), Razvan Cocis, Matt Watson, Alex; Harry Shipp (Grant Ward 58′), Quincy Amarikwa

Three lessons going forward

1. No switches to flick in Toronto – The Reds talent gives the impression they’re capable of more; that at some point, something will click, and the team will be able to challenge D.C. United and Sporting KC. Perhaps title ambitions are too much, but certainly the Reds should be distinguishing themselves from the rest of the conference.

Today was a reminder: That may not happen. Just like last week in Kansas City, we saw a Toronto team that, at the opening of the game, looked dangerous. But as the game went on, the team waned. By the end, they were outright vulnerable, part of the reason they’ve been caught by Columbus in the Eastern Conference.

2. Fight left in Chicago – Some have written them off, myself included, but as today showed, Chicago’s still capable of playing spoiler. At this point in their playoff push, they needed three points instead of one, but if you forget about their faint postseason hopes, and today’s result was a good one.

3. Not so healthy defense – Ryan Nelsen has had to mix-and-match for most of the season in defense, but with Mark Bloom and Steven Caldwell coming back into the team today, the back four was as healthy as it’d been in months. By the hour-mark today, though, Nelsen had lost Caldwell and Morrow. he’s back to improvising with his back four.

Where this leaves them:

  • Still seven back of D.C. United (for now), Toronto now needs to worry about Columbus, New York, and New England. Missed points at home put their playoff hopes in a new perspective.
  • The point lifts Chicago to eighth in the conference, passing Houston while moving within five points of a playoff spot.

Everton loses Coleman to leg break on Ireland duty

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A horror tackle from Wales’ Neil Taylor snapped Seamus Coleman‘s leg in gruesome fashion on Friday.

Taylor was given a red card, and Coleman was stretched off the pitch in the 0-0 draw.

[ MORE: UEFA World Cup qualifying wrap ]

Ireland manager Martin O’Neill confirmed what was apparent from the match replay: the Everton man has a broken ankle.

“It’s a bad break. He’s a fantastic player and character. It’s a major blow for the lad, his club and us.

“Apparently it wasn’t the best challenge in the world – I haven’t seen it. He’s gone to hospital. I saw his reaction immediately and it didn’t look good. He was holding is leg up and it didn’t look good.

This is not only awful for the player, but causes stress as Everton mounts its assault on the Top Six. The right back has also manned right mid for Ronald Koeman this season, and has four goals and four assists in 26 Premier League matches.

Mason Holgate, Muhamed Besic, and Phil Jagielka have played some right back for Everton, while Ramiro Funes Mori has deputized at left back.

Emotional McClean speaks after honoring deceased teammate (video)

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After wearing the No. 5 to honor of his recently deceased teammate, James McClean met with the media following Ireland’s 0-0 draw with Wales in World Cup qualifying on Friday.

McClean played with Ryan McBride at Derry City, and left Ireland camp to attend funeral services after McBride died following a match last weekend. McClean was also mourning the death of friend and Sinn Féin politician Martin McGuinness.

Throw in a gruesome injury to teammate Seamus Coleman and, in McClean’s words, “I’ve had better weeks”.

[ MORE: UEFA World Cup qualifying wrap ]

McClean, 27, spoke with evident emotion following a Man of the Match turn in Ireland’s draw (video below).

“It was a really tough week. The lads here have been great. They rallied around me. The manager was first class as well. He let me go up to Derry there on Tuesday and say my goodbyes. It’s been a tough week with Seamus injury as well. It’d been nice if we had have got a win and ended on a positive note, but it wasn’t to be.

“(McBride and McGuinness) were going through my thoughts today. I wanted to put in a performance that would make them proud. In the national anthem and the moment’s applause, holding my wee girl, it was emotional but I tried to put that in the right way into my performance. Hopefully tonight I’ve done the lads proud.”

World Cup qualifiers: Wales in trouble; Buffon hits 1000

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Friday’s matches mark the midway point of the main round of qualifying in UEFA, and the tables remain tight near the top of Groups D and G.

[ MORE: Smalling hurt, Gibson called up ]

Group I, however, is seeing some distance between first and second thanks to Croatia’s result versus Ukraine.

Republic of Ireland 0-0 Wales

Neil Taylor was sent off in the 69th minute for Wales, whose World Cup hopes are in trouble.

Seamus Coleman was stretchered off after the tackle, with a scary-looking injury that will leave Everton fans sick in more ways than one. Coleman’s leg was broken, and left dangling by the challenge.

Ireland couldn’t take advantage of the sending off, and failed in a bid to overtake Serbia for first in Group D. The Irish trail on goal differential, and will host Serbia on Sept. 5.

But Wales will rue the result more, remaining four points back of second-place Ireland. Chris Coleman’s side drops a point behind Austria as well, and will not have Taylor or Gareth Bale (card accumulation) in its next match. That comes against leaders Serbia.

Italy 2-0 Albania

Daniele De Rossi scored a 12th minute penalty kick won by Andrea Belotti, and Ciro Immobile scored late to provided the goals in Gianluigi Buffon’s 1000th appearance for club and country. Fittingly, it ended in a clean sheet. The match was briefly delayed after flares were thrown onto the field.

Spain 4-1 Israel

David Silva, Vitolo, and Diego Costa stakes the Spaniards to a three-goal lead, with Lior Refaelov ruining David De Gea‘s clean sheet with 11 minutes to play. Isco scored the match’s final goal.

Spain remains atop Group G on goal differential, eight better than second place Italy. Israel is four points behind both.

Croatia 1-0 Ukraine

Fiorentina’s Nikola Kalinic’s 38th minute goal was enough for the hosts, and Croatia is now five points clear of Ukraine and three above Iceland midway through qualifying.

Elsewhere
Austria 2-0 Moldova — RB Leipzig’s Sabitzer nabs winner
Liechtenstein 0-3 Macedonia — Ilija Nestorovski bags brace
Kosovo 1-2 Iceland — Sigurdsson PK the match winner
Georgia 1-3 Serbia — Mitrovic, Tadic lead the way
Turkey 2-0 Finland — Brace for Cenk Tosun

Boro’s Gibson called to England after injury to Man Utd’s Smalling

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Scoring goals has been the biggest problem for Middlesbrough in its return to the Premier League, and that overshadows how well the Northeast club has defended its own goal.

Ben Gibson has been a huge part of that, and now he’ll earn the chance to represent his nation thanks to an injury to Chris Smalling. Gibson will join England ahead of Sunday’s home World Cup qualifier against Lithuania.

[ MORE: Podolski leads Germany past England ]

Gibson has far and away been Boro’s best player, leading the side in blocked shots and clearances. The blocked shots total is tied for ninth in the Premier League, 11 behind current leader and new England teammate Michael Keane.

Smalling’s undisclosed injury is a bigger problem for Manchester United, which had already lost center back depth on England duty when Phil Jones was hurt.