The Chicago Fire are in no man’s land. They’re not out of the playoffs by any means. However, to get there, they'll have to go on an unprecedented run of wins to get there, They have to take full points in something like two out of every three games have left. Even with the amount of talent they have on the roster, that’s a tough ask.
But they’re in their best spot to do it. For the fanbase and most importantly, the team itself, this is the best spot to be in, in some ways. The best chance they have of making the playoffs is to play freely like there’s nothing on the line. They can just go out there and express themselves with their football.
The best way for the club to make the playoffs is to think they’re not making the playoffs.
Chicago Fire all-time MLS record vs Toronto FC: 9W-11D-14L, 52 GF / 61 GA, 38 pts out of 102
Chicago Fire home MLS record vs OPPONENT: XW-XD-XL, X GF / X GA, X pts out of X
It’s been rough for the 2017 Supporter’s Shield winners. They sit in 12th place, only two points above the bottom of the table Fire. They’re 1-1-3 in their last 5 games, and they have lost their last two. However, with Lorenzo Insigne and Mark Anthony-Kaye entering stage left, things could be set for a late-season turnaround for the Canadian outfit. The Fire are going to have to respect the possibility that this is not the same team that they played at the end of May, just as TFC must do with the Fire.
With how the club played in the first half against Columbus went, I think they should make as few changes as possible. That means the only change should be at left-back where Miguel Navarro is on red card suspension. There’s a choice to be made here between the younger Andre Reynolds II and the older more experienced Jonathan Bornstein. I’d go with Reynolds here because TFC likes to play at a higher tempo as well, and the extra youthful energy could be helpful.
Likewise, there’s a choice to be made in midfield. Pineda or Fede? I’m going to stick with Fede here because the disruption he provides in the middle is important early on, but squad rotation plus his penchant for turnovers means that once the second half starts, he should be on a very short leash.
One last note, Xherdan Shaqiri came out of the game on the weekend with an injury, so don’t be surprised if Jairo Torres starts in his place. If that does happen, Expect Brian Gutierrez in the middle with him and Chris Mueller out on the wings.
Keys To The Match
Channel the First Half: The first half against Columbus last week was something else. It was just good football, let alone good for MLS. The key to winning, not just this game but every game after that, starts with playing like that consistently. The dynamic movement was sublime and they finished their chances while controlling the game from afar, down on possession but more impactful when they had the ball.
The biggest difference between other games and last week was, of course, the finishing. Every good opportunity the Fire had was a quality shot, and two of them went in. They need to build off of that and score more first-half goals.
Don’t Let Off the Gas: The second half was where things fell apart on Saturday. That can not happen again. The defense cannot just switch off, especially with the potential debuts of both Lorenzo Insigne and Mark Anthony-Kaye. Everyone including Ezra Hendrickson must be on top of their game to win this one.
How To Watch
Time: 7:00 PM
Streaming: cf97 live/cf97 App
If the Fire can extrapolate their first-half performance over 90 minutes, they have a good shot here. However, with Insigne and Kaye looming large over the fixture, it might be out of their hands.