The Fire are looking for win number two on the season and Martin Tomszak is back with another match preview.
Can You Please Tell Us What They’re All Aboot, eh? TFC Preview
After grabbing their first win of the season on Sunday against Philadelphia, the Chicago Fire welcome Toronto FC to Toyota Park on Saturday. Both teams will be looking to gain some momentum heading into a long stretch of in-conference matches.
Toronto Form Guide: W-L-L
Previous match: A 2-1 loss away to RSL.
Formation in the last match: 4-3-3 Bendik; Morgan, Simonin, Hagglund, Creavalle; Cheyrou, Warner, Osorio; Findley, Giovinco, Moore
Strengths: Where do we begin? On paper, Toronto is probably the most well put together team in the Eastern conference. After eight years of missing the playoffs TFC is promising big things to their fan base and they have put their money where their mouth is by spending big in the offseason.
Dynamic Duo: One merely has to look at the way in which the Chicago Front Office is billing the game to get a glimpse of TFC’s strengths; “Fire vs. Bradley and Altidore” reads the headline. Michael Bradley already has a disappointing MLS season under his belt and Jozy Altidore is looking for a fresh start with TFC after a miserable spell in Europe. Look for both marquee DP’s to be hungry for success this season. Altidore netted a brace in his debut for TFC and had a few good looks in the match against Columbus, while Bradley has been able to split MLS defenses apart with his vision and passing accuracy, both in the air and on the ground. The chemistry between Bradley and Altidore has been visible not only in TFC’s matches this season, but the pair has really gelled in the U.S. camp as well. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that TFC is just a two man team, Bradley and Altidore are just the tip of a deep iceberg.
Giovinco: As if signing Altidore and already having the services of Bradley was not enough, TFC announced that Sebastian Giovinco as the club’s third DP. For those unfamiliar with Giovinco, the 5 ft. 5 in. Italian international can be termed a “complete package”. He is speedy, skilled on the ball, strong, accurate with free kicks and passes, and has quite a footballing brain, not to mention 50 professional career goals at club level. He was used as a winger in his days at Parma, started as a second forward for Juventus, and TFC coach Greg Vanney has him playing as withdrawn forward/creative midfielder. With such attributes and stats it is no wonder that Giovinco has been nicknamed the “Atomic Ant”, and he will be a handful on Saturday.
The “Other Guys”: Three solid DPs isn’t enough, eh? Well TFC also made some quality signings that flew under the radar. Benoit Cheyrou has been an anchor in TFC’s midfield this season, starting and going 90 minutes in all three matches since arriving. Cheyrou spent fifteen seasons in the French Ligue 1, most notably seven with Marseille. A versatile midfielder, he is usually deployed as a DM but his pass completion rate along with his vision makes him a formidable contributor to the attack as well, even chipping in with two or three goals a season.
The signings continued for TFC with the addition of Damien Perquis who arrived in Canada after playing with Betis in Spain. Prior to his stint with the La Liga outfit, Perquis spent time in France with Sochaux and St. Etienne while also electing to play for the Polish national team. He is an ideal center back partner for Scottish international Steven Caldwell and if TFC can keep both of them healthy, they can expect some clean sheets from this veteran pair this season.
Weaknesses: There is only one major weakness apparent in Chicago’s opponent, Toronto will always be Toronto. If there is any MLS team that consistently leaves viewers scratching their heads it has to be TFC. Season after season they have found a way to disappoint their fans with sub-par performances and near misses. This is perhaps highlighted by the Jermaine Defoe fiasco of last season which saw the club spend big on player who was meant to compliment Bradley but ultimately failed to impress and was out of the door before the season even finished. With nine head coaches in nine seasons, the stability at the managerial level does not get much better. While it is still early in the season a 1-2 record for the Reds is not an ideal start for a team that was meant to sweep the Eastern conference - the pressure is slowly mounting on a club that has shown it cannot deal with pressure in the past. If the Fire can get into Altidore’s head early on and force Cheyrou/Bradley/Giovinco to make lateral or reverse passes instead of penetrating balls then they have a chance at taking all three points.
Missing Key players: It seems like Chicago has gotten very lucky the last few weeks with their opponents often missing key players due to injury or suspension and the match against Toronto will be no different. In his post training interview on Thursday Greg Vanney confirmed that both Perquis and Caldwell will be unavailable, while Eriq Zavaleta is still questionable to return by Saturday. The league also suspended Luke Moore for “endangering an opponent” in the RSL match. When you couple this with the fact that Bradley and Altidore played a midweek international friendly in Switzerland, the Fire are catching TFC at a good time.
Prediction: Chicago has not lost to Toronto since May 2010 and something tells me they will not lose on Saturday. Chicago 3-2 Toronto. A brace from Accam sees the Fire take a 2-0 lead into the locker room, then Giovinco bags his first TFC goal and Altidore ties it up. In the dying moments of the game Guly do Prado lazily jogs into the box to tap in a Harry Shipp pass, showing the doubters that there is a method to his madness.