TORONTO â€” Sebastian Giovinco scored twice as Toronto FC defeated the Chicago Fire 3-1 Friday, handing German star Bastian 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.
A goal away from a hat trick, he was not happy to be taken off in the 84th minute, slapping a stanchion as he headed to the dressing room.
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 â€” with six on target.
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.
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 shape 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 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 Chicago defending with Zavaleta’s powerful header from a Justin Morrow cross beating Bava.
It was the defender’s second career goal and he celebrated by pointing to the sky in tribute to his grandmother â€” head coach Greg Vanney’s mother â€” who passed away last week in Arizona.
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.
Chicago arrived on the heels of two shutout wins and was unbeaten in three games. Head coach Veljko Paunovic stuck with the same starting 11 that beat New England 2-0 last weekend.
Toronto lost 2-1 in Columbus last week, a result that turned a five-game unbeaten streak into a three-game winless run.
Vanney made one change, with Marky Delgado replacing Armando Cooper in midfield.
There was early excitement, negated by offsides. A Nemanja Nikolic goal for Chicago was whistled dead in the second minute. Then Toronto’s Jozy Altidore hit the post on a play also deemed offside as the home side battled a stiff wind early in the first half.
Vaszquez came close to unlocking the Chicago defence in the eighth minute but his pass to Giovinco was a little long.
Giovinco hammered a long-range rocket just off target in the 11th minute after a cushioned header sent his way by Altidore. The Italian then forced a diving save from Bava with another long-range shot in the 18th minute.
Giovinco came close again in the 39th, shooting just wide.
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.
Giovinco set up Altidore perfectly in the 77th minute but the burly striker fired high.
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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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press