MLS: Toronto FC 3, Fire 1
TORONTO — On a night when German star Bastian Schweinsteiger came to town, Sebastian Giovinco served a reminder that he is still the main attraction.
The diminutive Italian scored two goals — and likely could have had five — as Toronto FC defeated the Chicago Fire 3-1 Friday, handing Schweinsteiger his first loss in Major League Soccer.
Giovinco upped his season goal total to three, punctuating the victory with a glorious free kick to the top corner in the 82nd minute. But his eye-popping performance came with a major-league tantrum.
A goal away from a hat trick, the Atomic Ant was not happy to be taken off in the 85th minute, slapping a stanchion in disgust as he headed directly to the dressing room. Giovinco, who had not had much luck in front of goal in his five previous games, had showered and left the building by the time reporters were allowed in the dressing room.
Toronto coach Greg Vanney said later he was trying to do the right thing in taking the Italian off.
He wanted an extra midfielder on to help do the dirty defensive work in the dying minutes. He also wanted to give another player some minutes, saying "We've got 30 guys who train their butts off every single week."
Vanney said he understands Giovinco's hunger for goals. But he also wanted to give the crowd a chance to celebrate his star striker's fine evening given his recent frustrations.
"I thought he was great. I thought he worked hard," Vanney said. "I think he's taken a lot of heat and it was a moment for me, for the crowd ... to give him appreciation for the things he did tonight."
Vanney admitted he miscalculated with the attempted show of respect. Lesson learned.
Eriq Zavaleta also scored for Toronto (2-1-4) while Spanish playmaker Victor Vazquez notched his fourth assist of the season, pulling the strings in his 66 minutes of action before 27,097 at BMO Field.
Substitute David Accam pulled a goal back for Chicago in the 88th minute. It was the Fire's only shot on target.
Giovinco, in comparison, fired 11 shots on the night — with six on target.
The TFC striker now has 46 goals and 35 assists in 74 regular-season and playoff games.
Toronto's only previous win this season was March 18 in Vancouver. And it marked its first victory at home since Nov. 30, when Toronto beat Montreal 5-2 in the second leg of the Eastern Conference final.
With home games against Houston and Orlando next, Toronto hopes it's the first step on the way to some momentum for the defending Eastern Conference champions.
Chicago (3-2-2) arrived on a good run of home form but had a hard time generating offence on the road and Toronto soon began to pull the Fire apart.
Giovinco found the target in the 28th minute taking a pass from Vazquez and then deftly making room for a shot through defender Michael Harrington's legs. Giovinco celebrated the goal by heading to the corner and blowing kisses.
The play started with captain Michael Bradley, who had a fine game, intercepting a Chicago pass.
Chicago goalkeeper Jorge Bava had to tip over a Giovinco free kick in the 32nd minute. On the ensuing corner, Toronto took advantage of slack defending with Zavaleta's powerful header from a Justin Morrow cross beating Jorge Bava.
It was the defender's second career goal and he celebrated by pointing to the sky in tribute to his grandmother — Vanney's mother — who passed away last week in Arizona.
Giovinco set up Altidore perfectly in the 77th minute but the burly striker fired high.
The Toronto visit marked the first MLS away game for Schweinsteiger, who scored two goals in his first three home games for the Fire. He had a relatively quiet evening, firing a shot high over the bar in the first half.
Things started poorly for the visitors with a Nemanja Nikolic goal whistled offside in the second minute.
The visitors were upset in the 72nd minute when they thought a Morrow handball was inside the penalty area. Replays seemed to support their view but referee Silviu Petrescu only awarded a free kick outside the area.
Schweinsteiger called it a strange game.
"I thought we started quite well, we had a goal that was offside, but we had some good chances in the beginning," he said. "Then we made some easy mistakes. Of course if we would've scored a goal or if we got the penalty than I think the game would've been changed, but that was not the case."
The Fire finished last in the league the last two years but have been one of the early-season surprises in 2017. Chicago finished 22 points back of Toronto last season but arrived four points ahead of the defending Eastern Conference champions Friday.
But the Fire have yet to win on the road this season (0-2-1). Chicago was 1-14-2 away from home last season.
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