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Fire take advantage of sloppy TFC defending to post first away win

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Toronto FC coach John Herdman took his time before meeting the media after Saturday's 4-1 loss to the Chicago Fire.

Word has to be said in the locker-room after a flat, sloppy performance that saw Toronto serve up goals on a platter to a Chicago team that came into the MLS match without a win on the road this season.

And Herdman was still raw after delivering a message to his players that such a performance can't happen again.

"I'm just still angry, really angry," said Herdman. "Frustrated, angry."

"I'm really emotional about this one," he added. "I've never been this disappointed in 30 years of my coaching career with women, men, youth teams, whatever. This one sucks."

The Fire, taking advantage of deplorable defending, scored three second-half goals — including two just three minutes apart — to defeat a depleted Toronto.

Maren Haile-Selassie, Hugo Cuypers, Mauricio Pineda and Allan Arigoni scored for Chicago (4-8-6), which came into the game tied for 27th in the league on offence, averaging 1.00 goals a game.

"None of (the goals) were acceptable," said Herdman, who apologized to the fans for the performance.

Lorenzo Insigne replied for Toronto (7-8-3), which returns to action Wednesday when Nashville SC comes to town.

"The real us have to show up on Wednesday because that wasn't us," said Herdman.

Toronto was punished in the 41st minute when Alonso Coello's attempted back pass was intercepted by Cuypers. Goalkeeper Luka Gavran made a fine save from close range to deny the Belgian forward but Toronto was unable to clear its zone as midfielder Deybi Flores had the ball pilfered by Fabian Herbers, whose cross was headed home by Haile-Selassie.

Toronto tied it three minutes later when goalkeeper Chris Brady could not hang on to Insigne's shot from just inside the penalty box. The offside flag went up, prompting protests from the Canadian bench, but the goal — Insigne's fourth of the season — was confirmed after Canadian referee Pierre-Luc Lauzière went to the pitch-side monitor to review the play.

Insigne had missed the last two games for the birth of his third son.

Cuypers made it 2-1 in the 57th minute after some sloppy play by defender Kevin Long, who was dispossessed by the Belgian as he tried to clear the ball. Cuypers headed for goal, holding off Long, and beat Gavran with a well-placed shot to the corner.

It was the sixth goal of the season for Chicago's designated player, who has scored in three straight games. Cuypers also becomes the first Chicago player to record a goal contribution in four straight matches (three goals and an assist) since Robert Beric did it in five consecutive games in 2020.

Three minutes later, TFC was punished again. Coello gave the ball away, trying to keep it from rolling into touch, and Toronto could not clear the danger with Pineda scoring with a low shot from outside the box.

Arigoni rubbed salt in the wound in the 89th minute with his first MLS goal.

Brian Gutiérrez's 19th-career MLS regular-season assist — on Pineda's goal — tied Freddy Adu for the second-most assists by a player before they've turned 21 years old. Gutiérrez is 20.

Herdman was at a loss for reasons behind the performance, coming after a two-week break that saw the players have a week off.

Toronto outshot Chicago 16-15 with the Fire having an 8-6 edge in shots on target. TFC had 60.1 per cent possession.

TFC's annual Pride Match drew an announced attendance of 28,303.

Toronto came into weekend play in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, seven places and nine points ahead of Chicago.

Both teams were without some significant pieces with Herdman making five enforced changes to his starting lineup.

Toronto was missing three players on international duty at Copa America: captain Jonathan Osorio and wingback Richie Laryea with Canada and goalkeeper Sean Johnson with the U.S. Star attacker Federico Bernardeschi and defender Nicksoen Gomis were suspended after being sent off in the 2-2 draw at D.C. United on June 1.

Defender Shane O’Neill (thigh) and midfielder Brandon Servania (knee) are long-term absentees. Rookie wingback Tyrese Spicer was unavailable with a lower-back issue while Owusu was limited to a cameo due to a calf injury.

Toronto signed TFC FC II midfielders Markus Cimermancic of Kitchener Ont., and Hassan Ayari to MLS short-term agreements to help make up the numbers.

Missing through injury for Chicago were Chase Gasper, Andrew Gutman, Tobias Salquist and Federico Navarro.

Toronto was coming off back-to-back draws with D.C. United and the Philadelphia Union (0-0) and was 7-3-2 in its previous 12 games in all competitions.

Chicago beat the visiting Los Angeles Galaxy 2-1 last time out and was unbeaten in its previous three outings (1-0-2) after a seven-game slide (0-5-2). The Fire had not won on the road (0-5-4) before Saturday.

The victory snapped Chicago's 12-game winless streak in Toronto (dating back to Sept. 11, 2013).

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 15, 2024.