TORONTO – On the back of three-straight wins as the summer grinds on, Toronto FC will be looking to add another victory to the tally when the Chicago Fire come to BMO Field on Saturday night.
Wins in each leg of the semifinal series against Ottawa Fury FC and a 2-1 win in Chicago last weekend have Toronto building momentum as the regular season nears its final three months.
“Between getting results, getting guys back, being able to work together in the shape we want to use and build the relationships that have been successful for us over the years; those are all positive things,” said Greg Vanney. “We know each game is important as we try to get back into the playoff picture.
“The momentum is good for us and the mindset is good for us, as we look to play at home this weekend against a Chicago team that we're tracking down.”
For a side buoyed by recent results, “The matches can't come quick enough,” according to Jason Hernandez.
“We feel like we're starting to round into form, have some familiar faces back, we're building on each result. We're in a good way at the moment,” observed Hernandez. “We're looking forward to the weekend.”
The return to normalcy has been felt throughout the club.
“It's been great: training sessions, games, the locker room; everything is getting back to normal,” said Ashtone Morgan. “Keep the momentum, keep flowing, and working hard. As the games go on, our team's skill and style comes out.”
The squad is buzzing.
“The mood is great; the boys are excited,” added Morgan. “We just want to get on and get ready for the next match which is Chicago this week. We're really excited for it.”
The process is coming to fruition.
“We were looking to find consistency in our performances, getting guys healthy and fit, so we could put out the same faces week in and week out, and build back those relationships and chemistry that proved to be a strength for us,” explained Hernandez. “We're starting to see some of that now. It's a launching point for us to go on a run to close out the rest of the season.”
With the flurry of matches, Vanney has been able to rotate his side, mixing spells of rest for those with heavy legs with fitness-building outings for those returning.
“It won't be the same group that played on Wednesday,” said Vanney. “We'll take inventory of the guys that played and how they feel. The Sebas of the world, those guys will find their way back in.”
That TFC will be meeting the Fire for the second time in a week, the recent encounter still front of mind, adds to the occasion.
“They remind me a little of a playoff series,” said Vanney. “We've done pretty well in those over the years. When we play teams back-to-back, we've been able to put good results together.”
“You can take away from the last game and immediately apply it to the next game,” added Vanney. “In that way, there is some value to these moments, to use them effectively.”
Joked Michael Bradley: “I'll tell you tomorrow after the game.”
“It's one of the peculiar things about MLS scheduling, sometimes you have these back-to-backs,” continued Bradley. “You take it for what it is. You can't pick and choose who we're playing against. We've got to step on the field ready to play, be sharp, and to take three points.”
“The fact that you're playing the same team so quickly again means that you try to take some things away from first game,” added Bradley. “I'm sure they, like us, will tweak a few things and we'll go from there.”
Said Hernandez: “They're very fresh in our memory: some of their tendencies, what they're looking to do on the field. We're focused on ourselves and what we're looking to do: execute our game plan come the weekend.”
And there will likely be a few familiar faces in the Chicago lineup with Nicolas Hasler, who was traded to the Fire last week, and former Red Raheem Edwards, who was a constant threat last weekend.
“To see Nico over there will be strange; Raheem has been gone for a while,” said Vanney. “It'll be interesting. I know the guys are close to [Hasler]. It'll be good for the guys to get out and compete against him.”
That won't be an issue as Toronto looks to determine their own fate.
“We're focused on ourselves,” said Morgan. “We control our own destiny.”