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Tactical Preview: Fire vs Toronto

Sebastian Grazzini will be the key man in Toronto for the Fire.
Sebastian Grazzini will be the key man in Toronto for the Fire.

Editor's Note: Within the last hour, Chicago Fire's Chris Rolfe and Toronto FC's Danny Koevermans have been ruled out for Saturday's game

Be wary of a change in formation for TFC (From 4-3-3 to 4-4-2)

In Toronto’s latest loss against Chivas, they played a 4-3-3 formation with Plata and Johnson wide and Koevermans in the middle. This changed when former Dallas player Eric Avila came in, with Johnson going into the middle to partner Koevermans who was isolated for most of the match. With Plata and Avila providing great crosses for the big men, Toronto looked a lot more dangerous and I expect Aaron Winter to stick with the formation he finished last week’s game with. Koevermans is a brilliant target striker and the Fire will have to be very tight to prevent him from getting many flicks and layoff’s to his teammates. Dealing with the strength and size of Johnson/Koevermans is going to be very difficult and the match-up between them and Anibaba/Friedrich will be fascinating.

Frings Factor

All the signs are that Torsten Frings will be back for Toronto which could provide a massive boost for the struggling Canadian club. Frings brings a wealth of experience and could galvanize his teammates. The major question if Frings starts is where? In last week’s game, defensive midfielder Terry Dunfield was left exposed time and time again. Winter could easily address that by putting Frings in alongside Dunfield but another option is to start the German at center back. Adrian Cann is coming off a year-long injury and is still not 100% fit, while last week’s other starting center back, Miguel Aceval, was subbed out after 56 minutes. My money is on Frings plugging the hole in the middle of the park and attempting to prevent Grazzini from getting too much space to create.

Speed, Speed, Speed

Toronto is not blessed with pace in many positions this season, especially defensively where the Fire’s attackers must take advantage. In Toronto’s last game, they failed to push the outside backs up at all, fearful of a counter attack and/or having the back line be too stretched. Chivas looked to get behind the defenders as often as possible and with better players they would have done so. The Fire should be looking to spring Nyarko, Pappa and Oduro at every opportunity with through balls from midfield. We all know that the wind is always blowing at a thousand miles per hour in BMO Field so the Fire should be looking to keep the ball on the ground at all times. Toronto is a poor team who are playing with little confidence. If the Fire can play at a very high tempo, chances will come.

Chris Rolfe – a great problem to have (watch out Pappa)

When asked this week about what position Chris Rolfe will play in for the Fire this season, coach Frank Klopas simply answered, "Up top." If that is the case, the Fire will have to switch from the formations that they have played with all season, namely having Oduro play as the lone striker. Many have argued that Nyarko is playing as Oduro’s partner up front but that simply isn’t the case. If they were playing together up top, you would expect them to be playing a lot closer together. You can see from Nyarko's heat map in the Houston match that he played almost exclusively on the left, presumably to get 2 v 1 situations for himself and Marco Pappa which was successful at times. I don’t think we will see a formation change before tomorrow’s game but once Klopas feels it is time for Rolfe to start, I believe we will be seeing him and Oduro playing a lot closer and off each other in the coming weeks. It will be interesting to see how Marco Pappa performs over the next few matches because I believe he will be the one to lose his starting spot once Rolfe is ready.