In some ways, Raphael Wicky was done dirty by the higher-ups at the Chicago Fire. Joe Mansueto and Georg Heitz did not live up to their end of the bargain. For two years, they handed Wicky a roster cobbled together with painter’s tape and central midfielders that unless everything went right, was doomed to fail. A global pandemic putting a halt to international transfers didn’t help much, but the fact of the matter is, Wicky was not provided the tools to get the job done.
But here we are. We now have 6 games left of purgatory before we can start looking toward the new era, and in the serendipity of timing, the Fire are playing Toronto FC, one of the two teams interim manager Frank Klopas has managed against this season. At least, there's a bit of familiarity for this lame-duck team in this lame-duck season.
The new era will have to wait. There are still games to play.
Chicago Fire away MLS record vs Toronto FC: 4W-5D-8L, 28 GF / 35 GA, 28 pts out of 35
TFC are one of the three teams in MLS that are behind the Fire in points, but find themselves in a good run of form, especially at home. They beat another one of those teams, FC Cincinnati on Wednesday, and beat Nashville at BMO on September 18th. However, they have given up plenty of goals while scoring. Their last clean sheet was a 0-0 draw against Colorado, but every game they score, they also give up goals. Their last clean sheet victory in MLS was in May.
I went back to how they lined up against TFC the first time they played and went off that, and tried to square it with what we know about how they’ve been playing recently. Sekulic should come back in the lineup to give Espinoza a rest, and Luka should finally be where he belongs, up top next to Chinonso Offor.
Keys To The Match
Control the Game: The midfield has been excellent in the last stretch, and it’s in large part thanks to Fede Navarro. His ball-winning ability and the seemingly endless motor he has, has energized the club into something that you can support and root for. The rest of the club seems to be feeding on that energy as well. Giménez and Medrán have played really well and even Robert Beric has benefitted from it.
Going into Toronto, the Fire are going to want to use that energy to get ahead early and never look back. Take the initiative and push forward a TFC team that gave up the most shots in Fire history when they played in July. If they do that, they should be rewarded with a 2nd road victory of the season.
Close Up Shop: The Fire defense has been the best it’s been in years. Shifting to a back 3 has done wonders for the confidence of the center backs. They’ve been able to keep the game in front of them and read the plays properly. Not having to worry about Francisco Calvo’s overly aggressive play is a part of that, but I think that It’s also young players progressing and becoming their best selves. The defense needs to keep improving individually and as a group, and they’ll be a force to be reckoned with next year, assuming Terán, Pineda, and Bornstein all return next season.
How To Watch
Streaming: CFFC Live/ ESPN+ (out of Market)
This could be real interesting, or it could be a dead end with no hope of anything good. I’m going to be optimistic and say 2-1 Fire, but it could easily go the other way. Look out for Jonathan Osorio.