By Marco D'Onofrio
Saturday night was Toronto FC's first game at BMO Field in a month as they took on the ninth-place team in the East, the Fire. Robert Earnshaw spent last season with the Reds before signing with the Fire earlier in the week. Earnshaw's papers and documents were all cleared in time for him to make his return to Toronto, where he sat on the bench for his first game with the Fire.
It would only take three minutes for the home crowd to have something to cheer about, with Bakary Soumare getting his head on a Justin Morrow cross for an own goal. Sean Johnson was left helpless in net, as his defender accidentally put one into his own net.
The early goal gave the home side momentum as they pressed for a second. Gilberto nearly made it 2-0 moments after the opener, but Johnson stayed big and made a crucial save to keep his team in it. The capacity crowd on hand was on its feet for the majority of the match as Toronto gave the fans plenty to cheer about. They dominated possession and controlled the play throughout the first half, with their intentions being to put the game out of reach.
Toronto FC captain Steven Caldwell made his return to the starting lineup for the Reds but was substituted off after just 23 minutes with Doneil Henry coming on in his place. Jermain Defoe would find the back of the net seconds after Caldwell's substitution when he chipped the ball over Johnson, but unfortunately for the Toronto FC faithful, it was quickly ruled offside.
The game would go into halftime with the own goal being the only one of the first half, despite Toronto creating a plethora of opportunities. Johnson did well to give his team a chance heading into the last 45 minutes with the Fire desperate to earn at least a point.
The second half kicked off with Toronto continuing to pile on pressure and looking for the game's second goal. They would have a couple of chances in the opening minutes of the second, but Johnson was up to the task once again.
Besides a couple of odd chances, Chicago rarely threatened to equalize, with the majority of the game being played in front of Johnson's net. Toronto would slow the game down though as it wore on. They went into a much more cautious mindset in the last half hour with all the injuries to the back four. Henry has already given away five penalty kicks in all competitions this season, and with his rookie partner, Nick Hagglund, beside him, Ryan Nelsen did not want to take any chances.
The defensive strategy seemed to backfire on the Reds though as Earnshaw only needed five minutes on the pitch to equalize. The former Toronto FC striker was able to head home a great cross from fellow substitute Grant Ward.
Toronto would regain the lead only minutes after though, as Gilberto would find the back of the net after a lovely ball from Luke Moore. Gilberto has now scored in four straight matches, all of them coming when he has played alongside Moore. Defoe was substituted off seconds before the goal in favor of Moore, and the change made an immediate impact. It was the striker's first goal in front of his home fans, and it couldn't have come at a better time for the Reds. However, the lead would be short lived.
Another former Toronto FC striker, Quincy Amarikwa would break hearts around BMO Field as he buried one right at the depth to give the Fire a crucial draw on the road. The draw in Toronto would be the Fire's 14th of the season, by far the most in all of Major League Soccer.
Toronto FC will now take on the New England Revolution next Saturday at home, while the Fire head back home to take on FC Dallas. The draw definitely hurt the Reds, who are fighting for the first playoff berth in franchise history. They currently sit in third place behind Sporting KC and D.C. United in the Eastern Conference, while the Fire moved to eight place. The point will give Frank Yallop's men something to build on.