Home MLS Toronto FC Controversial penalty decision gives Fire the win over TFC, tightens playoff race

Controversial penalty decision gives Fire the win over TFC, tightens playoff race


By losing in Chicago Saturday night by a 1-0 scoreline, Toronto FC has added a layer of drama to the final week of the season.

Mike Magee’s penalty-kick goal followed a controversial penalty decision. His 20th marker of the season put the Chicago Fire forward into a tie with the Impact’s Marco Di Vaio atop the MLS scoring race.

The Fire tied the Impact for third in the East, at 49 points. Each has a game to play. New England is a point back with one match left. Houston is also a point back, but has two games left. Philadelphia, in seventh, is three points back.

And, the Impact finishes the season next week in Toronto. So, you could argue that, by losing to Chicago on the same night the Blackhawks bested the Leafs (the Windy City really had its way with MLSE on Saturday, didn’t it?), Toronto FC actually put just that much more pressure on the Impact ahead of next weekend’s clash at BMO Field.

Magee scored after a penalty was awarded on a play that might remind some of the infamous 2012 Olympic women’s soccer semifinal between the United States and Canada. Back in 2012, it was an American free kick which struck Canadian defender Marie-Eve Nault on the arm inside the box, though it certainly didn’t look like she knew much about it, or that the arm/hand played the ball.

On Saturday, it was a Magee free kick that hit TFC’s Jonathan Osorio, who had his arms close to his body. Osorio turned as he blocked the free kick, and the ball did it him on the arm, but it wasn’t as if he extended out a hand to play the ball. He turned, and the ball struck him where his arm was curled against his chest.

Now, if there’s one thing to say in the referee’s defence, is that Osorio’s act of turning may have given the illusion that his arm was indeed playing the ball. In my opinion, if Osorio doesn’t turn to minimize the impact, if he takes the shot straight on, the call isn’t made.

It doesn’t mean the call was correct — it wasn’t — but Osorio’s act of turning might make him look guilty, when he wasn’t.

Advice here for the kids? Being in a wall is risky. It’s tough. And if a ball gets you square, it’s gonna hurt. But it’s the price you pay. Square up and stay square to the shot. Chances are if you stay square, and the ball plays your arm or hand, you’ll get the benefit of the doubt because you haven’t shifted your body. Don’t flinch. And, if you want to flinch, remember this: Don’t flinch.

Did I remind you that you shouldn’t flinch?

Sure, the Toronto FC apologist could point to the bad penalty call and say that the loss wasn’t a just result. But, wow, had TFC come out of that game with a point, it would have been the result of good fortune. Really, the penalty decision was the one bad turn that happened to TFC all game long. It was a really bad turn, for sure — but, for the rest of the match, TFC had the horseshoes, not the Fire.

Had Juan Luis Anongono, Magee’s partner up front, been clinical with his chances, this one would have been a blowout. Anongono found himself in space all night long. A headed effort forced TFC keeper Stefan Frei, making his first start of the MLS season, into a fine leaping save.

“That save that Stefan made would probably be for me, the save of the season,” coach Ryan Nelsen said after the match. “I haven’t seen it again but just from watching it live, I can’t think of any save that I’ve seen.  He walks into 80 or 90 per cent of any MLS team and he’s the starting goalkeeper.  He walks into there and he starts.  That’s so lucky for us to have.  Unfortunately Joe’s been so good as well.  He’s been absolutely fantastic.  And he hasn’t had many games and then to come and put a performance like that is a credit to Stefan.”

Anongono struck the post with a second-half effort. And, also in the second half, his laser beam of a drive, off a Magee feed, crashed off the underside of the bar and stayed out.

So, Anongono alone hit the woodwork twice.

Also, earlier in the second half, a cross from Magee pinged around in the box, bounced off the backside of TFC midfielder Reggie Lambe, and then banged off the post.

That’s three times Chicago efforts hit the woodwork. While TFC had some decent looks — most notably an early-game shot from Robert Earnshaw that went over the bar and a 71st-minute effort by Alvaro Rey that forced Chicago keeper Sean Johnson into a diving stop — the Reds couldn’t match the Fire when it came to chances created — and missed — in front of goal.

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  1. footy

    October 20, 2013 at 7:05 pm

    Off course it was a disgraceful penalty but, and I’ve only seen the highlights, TFC didn’t seem to create anything at all. So a dreadful 0-0 would have been the best, as Sandor also pointed out.

    Looks a bit cheap that Nelsrn is trying to sell Frei to another MLS club, but he still has a point with that save. That was just an incredible, Joe Hart (in form) kind of save. He IS a great keeper but not many teams are willing to spend big bucks on a goalie. Which is a shame really.

    • Colin Freebury

      October 20, 2013 at 10:29 pm

      I had the impression that Frei was happy to have a game after such a long absence. I don’t think Nelsen deserves criticism for this particular selection. Moreover, many supporters want to see him one more time to show their appreciation. And rightfully so.

      Unfortunately, it boils down to money, and Nelsen will be fired pretty quickly if he and the new GM don’t get the budget right.

  2. Colin Freebury

    October 20, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    No doubt TFC did not perform well, but then neither did Chicago. All in all, the game was a poor advertisement for MLS. And the garbage penalty call capped it off. The call resulting in the free kick was also questionable.

    Bekker finally got his chance. Sorry to say, but I think he missed it. Too many missed or poorly played passes. He might improve with more games, but that would have to be on loan next season, not on the first team.

    As deVos keeps pointing out, Morgan has had problems marking a fast, skillful winger. Maybe Nelsen should give Elmer the start against Montreal to see if he is a legitimate option.

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