Like Peering Through A Dark Mirror: TOR v CHI, MLS #27, preview

Will Mike Magee's groin mean a start for 'el Serpiente'? - Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Spor

The Fire, after looking a mess on and off the field at times the last month, travel to the masters of the mess, Toronto FC, this evening. Yet another crucial must-win match for Frank and company; can they take all three points from Ontario's cautionary tale of a club?

For two weeks, the Fire faithful have had their hearts broken - two games straight, the Fire have dropped points at the death. First, it was against Houston, when the Fire let a full three points slip away; some lazy defending allowed Adam Moffat to walk into the box and rocket a shot into the old onion bag in injury time. This past Saturday, it was the Sounders' turn to take a result away from the Men in Red. An own goal by Gonzalo Segares gave the hosts the lead in the waning minutes as the Fire looked to hold on for a point in Seattle.

There were actually some positives that came out of Saturday, if you can believe that. First, Mike Magee and the rest of the Fire attack showed that we actually have one - an attack, that is - after they settled in to the raucous environment. Magee ended up slotting in a through ball from Dilly Duka to give the visitors the lead midway through the first half. Sean Johnson bailed out Bakary Soumare with a penalty-kick save after Soumare's awful, awful handball off of a Seattle corner. Both teams were sustaining pressure while the game was going back and forth.

There were some negatives, though. Without Mike Magee in the second half - he left the game with tightness in his groin - the Fire were unable to sustain any kind of constant attacking pressure. In the first half, the Fire were going back and forth with the Sounders and actually looked like they had a sustained attack. When Mike Magee left at half as a precaution, the Fire seemed to let up off the gas and were unable to maintain the attacking pressure that they showed earlier.

Like many of the Fire players have said, it's time to move on and focus on the next one. This time, Frank and company travel north of the border to take on Toronto FC tonight. This will be the first meeting of the season between the two teams, and they're in different places - the Fire looking to stay within reach of the playoffs, while TFC playing for some dignity (and next year's contracts).

The Reds are coming off a 4-0 loss to Portland - and, oh yes, they fired their president and GM Kevin Payne after nine months on the job in TFC's semi-annual house-cleaning. The thing that makes Toronto dangerous is they literally have nothing to lose. This could be very bad for the Fire, as we should be able to beat them handily - but when it comes to teams the Fire should beat, lately it just hasn't happened. Will this be another game where the Fire play down to their opponent? Let's hope not. Chicago will be desperate to get the full three points as this is our game in hand on New England and Houston.

Lineups

First year head coach Ryan Nelsen has tried to put the best team that he can on the field but injuries and short term loans have prevented him from actually making it happen. With arguably his best player out (Matias Laba) and no other injury concerns, this is what we may see on Wednesday night:

Bendik

Eckersley-Caldwell-Henry-Elmer

Rey-Osorio-Hall-Convey

Wiedeman-Earnshaw

I really don't think it's going to be a big surprise to anybody if Frank doesn't change his lineup. Rios and Lindpere will still be missing due to international duty. The only injury concern is Mike Magee who came out at the half in Seattle with a possibly groin issue. The other thing that is possible is the club actually taking action on Soumare's tweet that verbally attacked a front office employee. If the Fire do discipline Soumare (which they should) and Magee is not able to go this is what we will see on Wednesday from cf97:

Johnson

Anibaba-Jumper-Berry-Segares

Nyarko-Larentowicz-Alex-Duka

Anangono-Rolfe

Key Matchups

  • Frank vs. predictability - This is all I got this week. It is apparent that Frank is very predictable in much of what he does on the field - from a lineup that hardly ever changes, to tactics that remain the same week to week, to the substitutions that have become nothing but a formality. As I pointed out over a month ago, Frank seems to use the same 13-14 field players. Using that number of players tells you something: Either the coach does not have any depth in his team, or he doesn't trust any of his subs, or both. So far this season there are 13 field players on the roster that have played over 600 minutes. Together these 13 players have logged 20572 of the 23400 minutes available through 26 games. That's 88% of the total playing time used by only 13 players. So what's the point of having a roster of 24 field players when Frank is only going to use 13 of them consistently? Take that the way you want but, in my opinion, players will get tired, physically and mentally, and will need rest at some point. Our tactics have remained the same all season with Frank basically employing a counter-attacking style. This can work from time to time, but with no variety in your tactics you become too predictable. Along with using the same 13 field players comes the fact that the substitutions have become nothing but a formality. He always takes off a forward midway through the 2nd half, always subs out one of his wing players midway through the 2nd half, and always puts on another CDM also. I know it's a little late in the season to change, but Frank has got to get some variety in order to keep the opposition guessing and adapting to how the Fire play. Toronto may not be that tough of an opponent but if Frank and the Fire do not adjust and change throughout the match than maybe its lights out for the Men in Red.

    Outcome

    With all of the results on Sunday going cf97's way, Frank and company must now take advantage. With a win on Wednesday, the Fire can move into the fifth playoff spot, only one point back of Philadelphia in fourth. TFC have had their problems this year again, having just fired yet another president, Kevin Payne, and also not playing to the standard that the long-suffereing fans expect. It seems year after year TFC have been a mess both on the field and off, but this year so has Chicago, frankly.

    Bottom line is that, with fifth place presented to the Fire on a silver platter, they have to come up with all three points tonight. I'm predicting a 2-0 win by the Men in Red with Rolfe and Anangono getting on the score sheet.

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