Ex-Celtic and Aston Villa star Shaun Maloney makes MLS breakthrough with match-winning performance

The Scot inspired the Chicago Fire to a 3-2 home win over Toronto FC with his first MLS goal and assist.

Chicago Fire midfielder Shaun Maloney had endured a slow start to his MLS career until Saturday’s visit of Toronto FC, when the 32-year-old inspired his side to a 3-2 win with his first goal and assist for the club.

Having just returned from international action, the Scot showed no sign of fatigue, setting up left-back Joevin Jones’ 14th-minute opener with a neat backheel pass.

He was at it again after the break as Chicago pushed for an equaliser after going 2-1 down, smashing in a low shot from Harrison Shipp’s cross to open his MLS account and help change the tide of the match.

After three underwhelming performances to start the season, it was a moment which came as a big relief for the former Celtic and Aston Villa star, who told MLSoccer.com's Jeff Krause at the final whistle: “I want to try to do as much as I can for my teammates. They expect me to score and assist.

“It's a new league and a new country, but in sports you don't get any time to adjust. That's what you saw in the celebration, there was a lot of relief as well.”

Maloney’s equaliser would provide the impetus for Chicago to go on to claim their second straight win through captain Jeff Larentowicz’s 68th-minute free-kick, with Frank Yallop’s men now in the midst of a mini revival after opening the campaign with three consecutive defeats.

The club missed out on a post-season place in the 2014 after finishing ninth in the Eastern Conference with a record-setting 18 draws and, after a dramatic offseason rebuild followed, Maloney emerged from the winter as the star signing.

Having been offered the chance to return to the Premier League this winter with Leicester City, as well as attracted interest from Celtic boss Ronny Deila, his decision to leave Wigan Athletic for the Fire was seen as a major coup for the MLS club and head coach Yallop believes his latest performance was a clear sign of things to come.

“It's difficult for some players to settle. I thought Shaun played well today. He stuck to it, and obviously getting a goal is going to boost his confidence,” said Yallop. “He's a great teammate. He works hard and wants to do all the right things. That's the reason why we give him chances and keep going with him. He's going to turn the corner for sure, and today was a great way to do that with a goal.”

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