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Stuff 'em or run 'em?: Tactical thoughts, Fire v Toronto, MLS #5

Our Chicago Fire host Toronto FC this Saturday; how will the Fire choose to build on the momentum of last week’s win?

How will Yallop send the Men in Red out against Toronto on Saturday?
How will Yallop send the Men in Red out against Toronto on Saturday?
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

As Toronto brings their 1-win, 2-loss record to Toyota Park, our look at their their tactical structure is straightforward. TFC plays the 4-4-2 diamond.

This formation plays to the strengths of their three DPs - Michael Bradley, Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore. Altidore usually partners up front with Robbie Findley - at midfield they check to the ball or play over the top - but near the box Altidore will be looking to be slipped thru or will be making runs thru the box when the ball is played wide. Giovinco plays the attacking mid spot in the diamond in the style Blanco played with the Fire, moving freely to look for openings between the lines, possessing the ball and then either probing with his passes or running at defenders. Playing the holding mid role is USMNT Captain Bradley. From his deep position he is the metronome of the Toronto attack, making short passes to the mids, finding Giovinco to start the counter, or chipping balls over the top for Altidore to run onto.

If the Fire can disrupt Bradley’s rhythm, they can limit TFC’s ball control style. On defense, now that Altidore and Bradley are back from USMNT duty - look for Toronto to go back to playing their high pressure style.

The choice: attack or defend

This week for our Fire, which formation Coach Yallop chooses depends more on whether he wants to attack TFC or defend against the Reds. If Coach Yallop wants to let Toronto set the tempo and try to hit Toronto's injury-riddled defense on the break, the Fire take a page out of the Crew’s playbook and start in a 4-2-3-1:

This alignment would bottle up TFC’s midfield and deny service to Altidore, Giovinco and Findley; it would also limit the space and time that Bradley and Giovinco need to establish ball control. If Accam can’t go, Jones pushes up to LM, Palmer moves to LB and Eric Gehrig starts at RB. Polster and Stephens start at DM as both have been bright lately - it’s probably too soon to see the Fire’s latest International signing, as Víctor Pérez is probably 2-3 weeks away from being fit for more than spot duty.

On the other hand, if FY wants to come out on the front foot and dictate play at home, expect to see the Fire in this 4-3-3:

This formation would put the most pressure on the TFC outside backs, and allow the Fire to play quick 1- and 2-touch the ground to feet to maintain possession. It would give both Shipp and Maloney the time and space to probe the seams in Toronto’s defense or look over the top behind the CBs. Jones and Accam on the left and Igboananike and Palmer on the right would be able to exploit the width of the field which Toronto concedes in the diamond. It would also put the most stress on Bradley’s tired legs.

Should the Fire come out and play reactively to disrupt Toronto’s rhythm? Or should the Fire actively take the game to TFC and put them on their heels? Choices, choices, choices - better and better and better!