David Accam has been a difference maker all season for the Chicago Fire and that continued Saturday.
The problem was Accam didn't start the match and by the time he entered the match the Fire trailed by two goals. Toronto came to Toyota Park and left with a 2-1 victory.
Accam returned this week after playing two games for Ghana, most recently a substitute appearance in Russia on Tuesday. Coach Veljko Paunovic inserted Accam in the 56th minute and he made an immediate impact.
Accam dribbled into the box and found John Goossens just two minutes after subbing on. After a deflection, Michael de Leeuw, ever the opportunist, was there to head in the loose ball.
Not starting a player fresh off international duty has been mostly common practice for Paunovic this season so it wasn't necessarily a surprise or controversial decision. Still, when asked if starting Accam would have made a difference in the result, Paunovic admitted it "probably would have."
"But that’s something we can’t go back and regret because the decision was common," Paunovic said. "We spoke before the game. David said that after the break with the national team and the long travel, he didn’t feel like starting and that’s it. We want our guys to participate in the decision."
Accam said he is always ready, but did not complain about coming off the bench.
“I feel great and for me I was happy to go on the pitch to help the team, but it wasn’t enough," Accam said. "For me personally I feel really good.”
Paunovic went with the same starting lineup as in the win against Philadelphia last week. Accam and David Arshakyan both came back from international duty as subs in the second half. It was Arshakyan’s home debut.
Jozy Altidore stayed hot with his sixth goal in eight games to give Toronto (13-8-7, 46 points) the lead. Fire forward Luis Solignac drew a reaction from the home crowd when he danced around the ball to get free in Toronto’s half, but he immediately followed that up with a bad pass that allowed Toronto to counter. TFC’s Justin Morrow later centered a ball to Altidore, who tucked it away for the opening goal in the 33rd minute.
Toronto doubled the lead in the second half with one Sean Johnson will want to forget. The Fire goalkeeper had no pressure on him and had the ball in his hands, but his throw went right to Altidore, who teed up Jonathan Osorio for the finish into the open net.
The Fire (6-13-8, 26 points) pressed for the equalizer, but were not able to score again against the league’s second stingiest defense. The Fire have 57 percent possession, a season-high, and had nine shots, three on target, in the second half.
“It’s of course a downer because I think the first half we played very well," de Leeuw said. "We created chances. At the end we did this to ourselves."
Toronto took the lead in the Eastern Conference while the Fire missed out on three much-needed points. The Fire had a 12-match unbeaten streak at home between MLS play and the U.S. Open Cup.
The Fire finish the three-game homestand Friday against D.C. United.