Notes from the rewatch: Trying to contain Sebastian Giovinco

Notes from the rewatch: Trying to contain Sebastian Giovinco

The Chicago Fire started a three-game road trip on Friday and it was yet another loss away from Toyota Park.

The loss at Toronto wasn't a shameful result because Toronto is one of the most talented teams in the league and has a former league MVP leading the way. Sebastian Giovinco torched the Fire for two goals and was upset he didn't get a third. Here's a look at Giovinco's game against the Fire and a couple other observations from the 16th road loss in 20 road matches for coach Veljko Paunovic.

Trying to contain Giovinco

The 2015 MLS MVP scored a pair of goals against the Fire and had chances for more. Heck, he was even angry when he got subbed out a couple minutes after scoring his second goal.

The Italian had 11 shots and six on target. As a team, the Fire had nine shots and one on target. Whatever the gameplan was on defending Giovinco, it didn't work. Those numbers are too much to allow and not expect him to score a goal or two.

Giovinco is so hard to defend because he can beat you with a powerful shot if you don't close him down, as happened on the first goal, and he can get by you with his quickness if you get too tight on him. He forced Michael Harrington into that tough choice on the first goal. Giovinco didn't move much in the lead up to the goal, but was allowed to receive the ball with a bit of space and was quick to turn and score with a hard right-footed shot.

Patience in midfield

The Fire's midfield has been revamped from a year ago with three quality players in central midfield. Bastian Schweinsteiger, Dax McCarty and Juninho all are solid passers. Having three players like this is very different from last year when the Fire were last in the league in time in possession.

Maybe the team needs some time to adjust to being able to play a different style, but this shouldn't be a long ball team like it was last year. The Fire can sit on the ball, be patient and control the tempo of the game. This is especially true when speedy winger David Accam doesn't start and also against a team like Toronto, which doesn't press high.

Without Accam in the lineup, the Fire don't have enough speed or technically adept players to play at pace. Forwards Nemanja Nikolic and Michael de Leeuw are best at finding space in the box and poaching goals, and a more deliberate buildup would play into that better.

Early on against Toronto, the Fire seemed to rush things and played at a higher tempo than necessary, which played into Toronto's hands. Only towards the end of the first half, after TFC led 2-0, did the Fire slow things down. There was a 19-pass sequence in the 41st minute with most of the passes coming in Toronto's half. The end result was a Juninho cross that was headed out for a corner kick. The Fire have shown at various times this season the ability to string passes together for extended periods. If the Fire had displayed that patience more consistently early on, they might not have been in a two-goal hole.

Check out this interaction with Schweinsteiger signaling to McCarty to play it wide to keep the ball. McCarty passes it forward and turns it over while Schweinsteiger looks up in frustration. Schweinsteiger was encouraging the route that wasn't going to lead to a chance, but would keep the Fire on the ball.

"Strange game"

After the match, Schweinsteiger called it a "strange game." Schweinsteiger's first road game may have been a bit of a "Welcome to MLS" moment for the German.

This isn't the pristine, manicured, high-profile game that Bayern Munich, the German national team and Manchester United play. This is MLS, where parity reigns and no team is as dominant as any of the three teams Schweinsteiger has played for.

Beyond that, MLS teams don't dominant games like Bayern or Man U strive to do. Toronto had a slight edge in possession early, but once the Reds went up two goals, they let the Fire control possession. This is something Schweinsteiger will have to get used to.

The Fire also weren't happy with either of the calls that led to the set pieces that Toronto scored on. Michael de Leeuw wanted a foul to go the other way in the 31st minute. Giovinco's ensuing free kick forced a corner kick and Toronto scored on that corner. Then in the 81st minute every Fire player in the vicinity was upset with the foul that went against Johan Kappelhof and led to Giovinco's free kick goal.

There's also the handball that got called in the 72nd minute against Justin Morrow, but was incorrectly called outside the box for a free kick. The Fire didn't have a shot on goal yet and were down two goals so a penalty kick probably wouldn't have turned things around, but would have made it more interesting down the stretch.

Welcome to MLS, Bastian. It sure can be strange.

Sebastian Giovinco scores twice in Fire's loss at Toronto

Sebastian Giovinco scores twice in Fire's loss at Toronto

The Chicago Fire showed improved home success in a recent three-game homestand, but road success again eluded them Friday in Toronto.

A trademark move from Sebastian Giovinco got things started for the hosts and Toronto FC cruised to a comfortable 3-1 win against the Fire at BMO Field.

Giovinco, the 2015 MLS MVP, showed why he is one of the best players in the league with his goal in the 28th minute. He got some space just outside the box, set up his right foot and drilled a low shot past goalkeeper Jorge Bava.

Four minutes later Toronto doubled the lead following a short corner kick. Justin Morrow's cross found Eriq Zavaleta, who headed in the goal.

After falling down two goals, the Fire (3-2-2, 11 points) gained a larger share of possession and finished the first half with a majority of the possession. However, Toronto (2-1-4, 10 points) was happy to play on the counter with Giovinco and the Fire were unable to get a shot on target until the 88th minute.

Giovinco added his second goal on a free kick that went in under the bottom of the crossbar in the final 10 minutes.

The Fire went 2-0-1 in the past three matches, all at home, and won consecutive matches for the first time in coach Veljko Paunovic's tenure. However, Friday's loss on the road looked like many of the 14 road defeats the Fire suffered last season. The Fire were down two goals in the first half and were unable to threaten Toronto's goal for a comeback until the final few minutes.

David Accam, who came off the bench for the second straight game, scored a consolation goal for the Fire. Him and Luis Solignac combined on a counter. Solignac centered the ball from the right and Accam scored with a first-touch finish. That was the Fire's only shot on target while Toronto had nine.

Paunovic went with the same starting lineup that started the 3-0 win against New England last weekend.

The Fire continue the road trip in eight days with a match at the New York Red Bulls.