Toronto FC (2-4-0, 6th in East) vs. Chicago Fire (2-2-2, t-2nd in East)
All time record: Chicago leads 3-2-2
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What’s at Stake?
Toronto are in the midst of a busy month with seven games (five away) in May. They will look to snatch a win at home—where they are 2-0—before embarking on a three-game road trip. After facing Chicago, the Reds travel to Montreal, Los Angeles and Vancouver over the next week and a half for MLS and Nutrilite Canadian Championship action.
Depth will be a key to success. Toronto are looking to rebound from last Saturday’s 2-1 loss at Real Salt Lake. The news of that day was Preki’s decision to rest leading scorer Dwayne De Rosario and Julian de Guzman against RSL. He admitted it was a mistake this week and should keep things simple this time around.
Chicago are coming off a 1-1 home draw with Chivas USA in which they were badly outshot, 14-4. Key midfielder Justin Mapp went down with a lower left leg injury and will be out of the lineup against TFC. Chicago are 1-1-1 away from Toyota Park, and this match is the first of a two-game road trip that will also include a visit to Kansas City next Saturday.
Following that game, the Fire return to Bridgeview for six straight home games including three MLS games, the Sister Cities Cup and a match against AC Milan at Soldier Field. So this road trip is one to survive more than an opportunity to overreach for points.
The two teams played to a 2-2 draw Sept. 26, 2009, in a see-saw affair at Toyota Park that Chicago twice come back from one-goal deficits. TFC conceded a goal in the final 15 minutes to snatch a draw from the jaws of victory. The two missed points proved to costly as Toronto ultimately missed the playoffs by one point.
Dwayne De Rosario scored in the sixth minute to stake the Reds to an early lead before an own goal just eight minutes later drew Chicago even. Former Fire striker Chad Barrett then gave Toronto the lead again just a minute into the second half. But U.S. international Brian McBride scored in the 78th minute to help the Fire salvage a point.
Heroes & Villains
Toronto’s midfield vs. Chicago’s midfield: The Fire’s dynamic and offensive midfield, which includes playmakers Marco Pappa and Baggio Husidic, who have combined for four goals, will be a handful for a defensive-oriented TFC midfield. The match may well be decided in this part of the field. If De Guzman and Co. can stifle Chicago’s midfield and cut off service to McBride and speedy Ghanaian striker Patrick Nyarko, the home side should prevail.
Toronto’s Dwayne De Rosario vs. Chicago’s Brian McBride: These two are the irrespective go-to-guys on offense and their ability to exert themselves will go a long way in determining their team’s fortunes. De Rosario is Toronto’s offense, scoring six of the team’s seven goals. If Chicago can suffocate DeRo, they will shut down Toronto. Meanwhile, Chicago’s balanced attack hides the fact that the aging McBride still has a great nose for the goal and always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Toronto’s defense will monitor him at all times and be physical with him in the air on corners and set plays.
Toronto striker Chad Barrett vs. Chicago striker Patrick Nyarko: While the attention will be on De Rosario and McBride, the wildcard may be which of these two players steals the spotlight. The tireless Barrett finally got on the scoresheet last week against Montreal. Nyarko has been the Fire’s most consistent and lethal attacker stretching backlines and outpacing defenders with ease.
Toronto FC coach Preki vs. Toronto FC: Preki outmaneuvered himself not starting both De Rosario and de Guzman in last Saturday’s loss at Real Salt Lake. As mentioned, he later admitted to the blunder. But he’s shown a penchant for tinkering and for a team that’s still trying to gel, this can be disastrous. Does Preki have another head-scratching move in the cards against Chicago?
Stats that make you go “Hm”:
Toronto FC captain Dwayne De Rosario has six goals in six games and is an early contender for the league’s Golden Boot Award.
Toronto is undefeated at home this season, yet 0-4 away from BMO Field.
Chicago’s Ghanaian striker Patrick Nyarko is riding a four-game assist streak and is one shy of matching the club’s record of five in a season, held jointly by Hristo Stoitchkov (2000) and Jesse Marsch (2001).
He said it:
“There’re things that I can always do better and I think that’s something that makes me play okay every game because I know my faults and the things I do wrong every game. Definitely, if I can give that sense to my back four that I am consistent and there to bail them out that’s good because that’s important, but I have a long ways to go.” — Toronto FC goalkeeper Stefan Frei