Home, sweet home.
Toronto FC looks to get back into the winning column after a tough 4-1 loss in Kansas City last Saturday.
It’s been almost a month since TFC last played at home. They mark their return to BMO Field with a date against the Chicago Fire, the early contender for the MLS Fair Play award this season.
The Fire seemingly refuse to leave a game without both teams picking up a point - to date, Frank Yallop’s club have registered 13 draws this season. No, that’s not a misprint.
Bagging goals is the Fire’s biggest problem. They haven’t scored more than one in nine consecutive league matches. TFC’s last meeting with Chicago on a rainy night at Toyota Park marked the beginning of this dubious streak.
Yallop hopes the addition of former Reds striker Robert Earnshaw will give his club a jolt up front.
Earnshaw is eager to help his new club after obtaining his International Transfer Certificate and P-1 Visa in London, England on Wednesday morning. He last played in North America for TFC in 2013.
Though his match fitness is a concern, Earnshaw is relishing a return to T.O.
“I’m hoping [to play a part],” he said, via Chicago-Fire.com. “For me it’s obviously a huge game. First game for Chicago and could be against my old team. I’m very close to Toronto as well because moving from the other side of the world, I’ve played most of my career in the UK and the support I got there was unbelievable.”
“I never got a chance to say a goodbye and thank you so it will be a ‘Welcome, Chicago’ and also ‘Goodbye, Toronto’ at the same time. That’s going to be nice,” said the Fire’s new #88 (no doubt in honour of former Toronto legend Eric Lindros).
There is another nine-game streak that could be broken on Saturday night.
Toronto FC hasn’t beaten the Fire since a 4-1 win on May 8, 2010, good for a span of nine games.
The return of leading goalscorer Jermain Defoe comes at a critical time. Defenders Steven Caldwell and Mark Bloom returned to training this week and could feature against the Fire. Caldwell and Bloom indicated they’re fit to play after training on Friday.
Ryan Nelsen confirmed all three players will be available against Chicago.
Fullback Warren Creavalle is doubtful for Saturday’s fixture due to a hamstring injury.
As for who will start for Toronto upfront, Nelsen is confident whichever strike partnership he employs can do the job.
“Maybe it’s Jermain and Luke, or Jermain and Gilberto, or Gilberto and Luke. That’s what we’re trying to get, so that if we have injuries we don’t skip a beat,” Nelsen said earlier this week.
“Whatever pairing we have, we hope that we not skip a bit and maximize the best of their abilities.”
The Fire, whose slow-but-steady penchant for taking one point from matches instead of three still sit only three points back of the fifth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
TFC remains in third place, two points in front of the Columbus Crew.
At this point in the season, these are all big games. After a long, difficult road trip, TFC will look for solace in the comforts of home on Saturday night.