Reds Alert: Chicago v Toronto, MLS #15 Preview

Will Mike Magee play tonight? We're hoping so, although the club is mum at this point. - Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Fire find themselves propping up the table for first time in memory, need a result against a weakened Toronto FC side

When: Wednesday July 2nd at 7:30PM CST

Where: Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Illinois

Where to Watch: Toyota Park Stands, My50 Chicago

Hey, What Happened?

The last time that we saw our beloved men in red in league play they suffered a 3-2 loss at the hands of the Seattle Sounders. That was on June 7; since then the Fire have played and won their 4th- and 5th-round US Open Cup ties against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds and Columbus Crew, respectively.

Hey, What's Happening?

On Wednesday night, the Fire return to league play after the World Cup break, hosting Toronto FC at Toyota Park. Wednesday night will also mark the first of four games to played in the span of 10 days, which sounds exactly how the Fire went into the World Cup break, when they played three games in the span of six days. The Reds sit in fourth place in the east, despite having played only 12 games so far. The Fire will kick this game off at the very bottom of the league table; obviously a positive result is needed if they are to entertain any hopes of making a run into the playoff positions.

Hey, What Should Happen?

Dominate their lightweight midfield: Okay, I could go on about how deadly a striker Jermain Defoe is, how quick his shot he is, how well he sees the field, yadda yadda yadda; but I won't. Instead I will talk about Toronto FC's weakest link: Their midfield. They can be caught upfield from time to time due to an attacking mindset. Newly acquired Dominic Oduro slides in on the outside like he was doing in Chicago and tends to let his defensive duties go by the wayside. Jackson who loves to get forward to support the attack can get lost up top. Jonathan Osorio, a second year player, is an attacking playmaker who can also get a little too far forward. The only midfielder who plays defense in the lineup against New York was Collen Warner.

With the normal two forwards up top, then three very offensive-minded midfielders jumping into the attack, there should be acres of space on the counter for the Fire to exploit. Without Michael Bradley - who is still in Brazil - TFC do not have that midfield general to control the middle of the park and knit the two halves of the team together. This was evident from last week's game versus Red Bulls; Defoe had to drop further back in order to get the ball to try to create offensive opportunities.

Don't get me wrong, TFC has some dangerous players, but their biggest strength can turn into their biggest weakness. The Fire just have to be able to sustain pressure and look to break quickly on the counter or take the offense out of the game by applying high pressure up the field.

Pounce on mistakes from the back: Doneil Henry is fabulously talented, but he's still a 21-year-old centerback, and is prone to the odd gaffe. Whoever the Fire start up top - word is that Mike Magee has been training, but his status is still uncertain - needs to stay alert to the possibility that the TFC defense may cough the ball up at any time. Converting those mistakes into chances on goal will make the Reds' offense-first midfielders think twice about making that run in behind.

Don't get caught upfield: If there's a team on the league whose shape and personnel beg for the abandonment of a high defensive line, it's TFC. The trio of Defoe, Oduro and Jackson are blazing fast, and will look to get in behind at every opportunity. If the cf97 defenders are constantly turning to run at their own goal, we're in trouble, and ball pressure probably isn't the answer - anyone can bang the ball into the space behind a high defensive line.

Hey What's Going to Happen?

It's no longer early; there are merely three games remaining until the half way point of the season. The Fire are going to have to start producing results. They've dug quite a hole - as mentioned above, Chicago will be 19th out of 19 in MLS when this match kicks off. They are going to have to start getting the full three points from here on out.

# Club PTS GP PPG W L T GF GA GD HG HGD RG RGD
1 Seattle Sounders FC 35 16 2.19 11 3 2 33 23 10 16 9 17 1
2 Sporting Kansas City 25 16 1.56 7 5 4 22 14 8 12 6 10 2
3 Colorado Rapids 25 16 1.56 7 5 4 23 18 5 15 8 8 -3
4 D.C. United 25 16 1.56 7 5 4 22 17 5 13 5 9 0
5 Real Salt Lake 25 16 1.56 6 3 7 25 22 3 10 3 15 0
6 New England Revolution 23 15 1.53 7 6 2 22 21 1 12 6 10 -5
7 FC Dallas 23 18 1.28 6 7 5 28 28 0 17 3 11 -3
8 Vancouver Whitecaps 22 15 1.47 5 3 7 25 22 3 14 4 11 -1
9 Toronto FC 20 12 1.67 6 4 2 17 15 2 8 3 9 -1
10 LA Galaxy 20 13 1.54 5 3 5 17 11 6 8 4 9 2
11 Portland Timbers 20 17 1.18 4 5 8 28 28 0 19 -1 9 1
12 New York Red Bulls 19 16 1.19 4 5 7 24 24 0 15 3 9 -3
13 Columbus Crew 19 16 1.19 4 5 7 18 18 0 7 0 11 0
14 Philadelphia Union 18 17 1.06 4 7 6 25 28 -3 10 -2 15 -1
15 Houston Dynamo 17 17 1 5 10 2 16 32 -16 11 -1 5 -15
16 San Jose Earthquakes 16 14 1.14 4 6 4 15 15 0 11 3 4 -3
17 Montreal Impact 14 15 0.93 3 7 5 16 26 -10 11 -1 5 -9
18 Chivas USA 14 15 0.93 3 7 5 15 26 -11 7 -10 8 -1
19 Chicago Fire 14 14 1 2 4 8 22 25 -3 11 -1 11 -2

Yikes.

After Toronto, the Fire face Kansas City and New England in league play with an away date with Atlanta in the Open Cup sandwiched in between. It is vitally important, if 2014 is not to yet another lost season, for the team to take advantage of this flawed Reds lineup and take the full three points.

As for Wednesday night I'm going to stay optimistic and say that the Fire are going to return from the break with a win. I'll go with a 2-1 win with a goal from Magee and Shipp.

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