This ain’t your grandfather’s—err, older brother’s—Chicago Fire.
Once a model franchise in MLS, the Fire had lost their way in recent years, finishing dead last in the league the past two seasons while making just one playoff appearance since 2010.
But after some shrewd offseason season moves, and one very big splash, the 1998 MLS Cup champions may well be on their way back to the promised land.
Here’s what Toronto FC can expect come Friday night at BMO Field.
Formation – 4-2-3-1/4-3-3
Chicago has deployed a few different looks since bringing former German international and World Cup champion Bastian Schweinsteiger into the fold. Through his addition, the Fire now boast one of the most potent central midfield corps in all of MLS.
Alongside the former Bayern Munich star are two proved MLS veterans in Juninho and Dax McCarty, making the Fire a difficult team to breakdown and a dangerous team on the counter.
Their attacking prowess is as potent as ever, with the always-dangerous David Accam lurking with blinding pace on the wings and red-hot striker Nemanja Nikolić leading the line, who has bagged three goals in his last two games to earn Alcatel MLS Player of the Week plaudits.
Key Player – Dax McCarty
Schweinsteiger is the obvious name that leaps off the lineup sheet given his pedigree, but McCarty has long been one of the most respected midfielders in the league.
After stops at FC Dallas and D.C. United, McCarty landed with the New York Red Bulls where he cemented his status as an elite central midfielder, shielding the back four and jump-starting counter attacks with his precision passing.
After captaining the Red Bulls to Supporters’ Shield titles in 2013 and 2015, the Fire made the move to bring the “Ginger Ninja” aboard, and it has proved to be one of the pickups of the year. His calming influence in the middle of the park has helped to bring a winning culture back to Chicago as the Fire look a side transformed in 2017.
Greg Vanney: “They’ve become a much better team over the past six months or so. They have a good mix of attacking players who are dynamic, quick and can run at you. Now they have some passers who can make the final passes and are good at moving the ball quickly. They’ll dissect you if you’re out of shape.”
Toronto FC return home to host the Chicago Fire on Friday, April 21 at 7:30 PM. Get your tickets at torontofc.ca/tickets.