Throw out all the "must win" clichés you want but this game is exactly that. If the Fire expect to make the playoffs they will need to continue beating the lower level clubs and Toronto FC definitely qualifies as such. At 4-13-10, they're only ahead of DC United for the dubious distinction of worst record in the league. The Fire cleaned up against them last season with three wins and that dominance will need to continue if Chicago wants to capitalize on the "game in hand" advantage it has against the other playoff contenders.
In the middle of yet another front office upheaval and a trade to offload forward Maxi Urruti, who the recently fired Kevin Payne spent months courting Toronto FC's annual circus makes the Fire organization look like a well oiled machine. A 2-4-7 record at home tells you just how bad this club is. With nothing to play for other than possibly looking competent enough to earn an invite back in 2014, Toronto FC shouldn't provide much resistance. If the Fire can take a lead like they did in Seattle they should be able to coast if they don't take their foot off the pedal (like they did in Seattle and against Houston).
Toronto's last five games include losses to Seattle and Columbus, draws against DC and New England, and a 4-0 drubbing this past weekend in Portland.
Johnson; Segares, Berry, Soumare, Anibaba; Duka, Pause, Larentowicz, Nyarko; Alex,Rolfe
Bendik; Elmer, Agbossoumonde, Caldwell, Eckersley; Convey, Hall, Russell, Rey; Weideman, Earnshaw
The line-up above is the eleven that Ryan Nelsen trotted out in Portland and there may be change or two. Ashtone Morgan is a possibility at left back, Doneil Henry has seen time at centerback, and Jonathan Osorio started in midfield in the draw at home against the Revolution. Bright Dike, the young forward acquired from Portland in exchange for Urruti is also an option. Earnshaw got off to a good start in MLS but has battled some injuries and has disappeared since April. None of this should frighten anyone.
Patrick Nyarko has come off the bench since returning from suffering through concussion symptoms but the Fire will need to work him back into the line-up at some point soon if they are to maximize their potential in the attacking third. If Nyarko is fully fit he should be in the starting group. This will be especially important if Mike Magee isn't able to start after being taken off at half time in Seattle due to a groin issue. Klopas said Magee was removed as a precaution. If he can't start and Nyarko isn't on the pitch, the Fire are limited creatively. The duo of Chris Rolfe and Juan Luis Anangonó failed to do much in the second half on Saturday. Perhaps they'll have an easier go against a weaker TFC side but Magee's presence is obviously critical to the rest of the season so he may begin this one on the bench.
The Fire don't make anything easy for themselves and Klopas may need to mix and match some spots with a more difficult opponent coming to Toyota Park on Saturday. If you're a playoff team, you've got to beat teams that simply aren't as good as you.
Fire 2 Toronto FC 1
Dos A Cero
USA has officially qualified for the 2014 World Cup by virtue of another 2-0 win over Mexico and Honduras' 2-2 draw against Panama. There is still something to play for however as the US can still finish at the top of the group. It will be interesting to see if Juergen Klinsmann makes any changes to the squad for the final two games on Oct. 11 against Jamaica and Oct. 15 in Panama.
Egidio Arevalo Rios and Joel Lindpere are headed back to Chicago after stints with their respective national teams and should be available Saturday. Rios played 90 minutes in Uruguay's 2-0 win over Colombia and they are still very much in the picture for next year's World Cup. Estonia has been eliminated. Lindpere did not play in a 5-1 loss to Hungary yesterday.