Toronto FC earns draw with Fire

Robert Earnshaw scored midway through the first half to earn Toronto FC a 1-1 with the Chicago Fire in MLS play Wednesday night.

Robert Earnshaw scores in 1st half

Toronto FC earns draw with Fire. 1:18

Toronto FC manager Ryan Nelsen was anything but conciliatory Wednesday when informed former Toronto mayor David Miller had returned his season tickets to protest the underachieving MLS club.

"I guarantee coming probably in early January, he'll wish he had them back," Nelsen said defiantly after a 1-1 tie with the Chicago Fire. "So he's going to look pretty silly, to tell you the truth.

"But that's what fans do. They have the right to do whatever they want. But there'll be a time pretty soon that whoever decides to do that, I hope they get made to pay double to get (the tickets) back."

In referring to January, Nelsen meant the next international transfer window. Toronto (4-13-11) has said it plans to open the vault for two designated player strikers.

More than a few fans seemed to be in the Miller camp, judging from the announced season-low crowd of 15,217 at BMO Field for a game played under the threat of a severe thunderstorm. The actual number looked a lot smaller and made for a Canadian Armed Forces Night devoid of energy.

Miller made his feelings known in an open letter posted to Facebook. The former mayor, who was involved in helping get the Toronto stadium built, cited the franchise's decision to fire president and general manager Kevin Payne and trade newly acquired Argentine striker Maximiliano Urruti, among other beefs.

"There once was magic at BMO Field," Miller wrote. "The latest reshuffle has made the possibility of that magic returning almost certainly disappear."

Wednesday's tie extended Toronto's winless streak to six games (0-3-3). Its last victory was Aug. 4 over New England. Toronto's season line reads like this: a win each in March, June, July and August.

Toronto did not help itself on offence, with several instances of players selfishly trying shots themselves rather than passing to open teammates.

"They were the best chances of the game," lamented a frustrated Nelsen.

The home side also needed a game-saving close-range stop from goalie Joe Bendik in the 80th minute on former TFC player Quincy Amarikwa to preserve the tie.

For Chicago (10-11-6), the evening represented dropped points in its playoff push. The Fire arrived in seventh spot in the East, just two points out of fifth place and a post-season berth.

Chicago came out early and went ahead in the 20th minute on a Dilly Duka goal. The Fire faded, but Toronto could not take advantage.

Failed chances

Wednesday's storyline for Toronto was all about an offence that failed to take its chances. The club also suffered some more bad luck when Robert Earnshaw injured himself in scoring the tying goal in the 23rd minute on a wet field.

He was forced off the pitch two minutes later with a hamstring problem. The only good news is he considers it minor and it's not the hamstring that kept him out for several weeks earlier in the season.

With designated player Danny Koevermans only just back in training from the latest in a line of injuries, that leaves Toronto with only three fit strikers for Saturday's game in New York and one of those, newly acquired Bright Dike, has hardly played after undergoing knee surgery in February.

Neither team sparkled offensively Wednesday. Chicago outshot Toronto 18-15 but only 4-3 in shots on target.

The opening Chicago goal came in the 20th minute via a looping ball from midfielder Duka that skipped just over the foot of a lunging Mike Magee and past Bendik, who was caught in no-man's land because of the oncoming Magee. There were seven Toronto players behind the ball when Duka launched it, notching his fourth of the season.

Earnshaw tied it three minutes later after Bobby Convey threaded a cross through three Chicago players to the Welsh striker, who hesitated to make a defender commit before firing the ball past Sean Johnson. It was Earnshaw's seventh goal of the season but first since June 15.

Earnshaw did not launch his trademark goal somersault celebration, saying later it's probably been a decade since an injury prevented him from doing it.

It's been that kind of season for Toronto FC.

Nelsen, asked if he had done something wrong in a past life given Earnshaw injuring himself while scoring, opted to see a positive.

"It's just a build-up of karma that's going to come back in floods," he said with a smile.

Toronto substitute Justin Braun twice ignored open teammates on attack. Spanish winger Alvaro Rey also appeared to be blind in one eye on one rush.

But Rey showed off his good side in the 45th minute, curling a magnificent shot from distance off the corner of the crossbar.

Toronto started defenders Doneil Henry and Ashtone Morgan and midfielder Jonathan Osorio, just days after they played for Canada in a Sunday friendly against Mauritania in Spain. Despite the onerous travel schedule, Henry and Osorio both offered some nice touches.

But Henry got a late yellow card, earning a one-game suspension for card accumulation.

Toronto FC said close to 500 military were on hand for the game. MLS commissioner Don Garber was also on hand, sitting with Payne.