Fire v Toronto FC match preview

What Are They All About? Toronto FC

A win! The Chicago Fire Soccer Club notched its seventh victory of the campaign this past Sunday as they beat New England 2-1 and dashed another rival’s playoff hopes. Playing the role of spoiler might be on the cards again as they face a Toronto FC side jockeying for position in the post season this Sunday. The scenarios are endless on decision day but TFC needs to beat Chicago and hope NYCFC drops points against Columbus if they want to earn themselves a bye in the first round of the playoffs. This is the third meeting between these two sides this season with Toronto winning both previous encounters. The last fixture in September saw Chicago just six points outside of a playoff spot at the opening whistle and nine points outside of it at the end of the match, a fact that should give the Fire even more motivation heading into Sunday’s match at BMO Field.

After that loss to TFC, Chicago went on a six match winless streak which effectively ended their post season dreams. If players want to echo Veljko Paunovic’s calls for passion, a strong mentality, and a positive reaction to adversity—not to mention save their jobs—there would be no better way to exhibit that than by helping earn Chicago’s second road win of the season.   These same stakes have arguably been there for much of the season, so will Chicago supporters witness the improbable or will it be more of the same?

TFC (Last Five Matches): D-L-D-D-D

Previous Match: A 2-2 away draw with the Montreal Impact.

Formation in Previous Match: 4-4-2 (diamond); Irwin; Bloom, Zavaleta, Moor, Morrow; Bradley, Cooper, Lovitz, Osorio; Altidore, Babouli

Strengths: As has recently become the case, Chicago is facing another team that should be familiar to them and to our readers. Greg Vanney won’t have very many surprises up his sleeve as Giovinco’s return from injury has allowed for a return to their 4-4-2 diamond formation and a tactical reliance on Giovinco as a withdrawn forward/connecting midfielder. Typical TFC strengths include versatility in midfield, Jozy Altidore’s return to form, Giovinco’s presence, and a stingy defense (by Eastern Conference standards).We invite you to re-visit our previous examinations of TFC as we give a quick overview of their recent strengths.

No, We’d Rather You Didn’t: If there’s one thing that Chicago has struggled with consistently throughout the season it is chance creation. David Accam leads the side with 27 SOG this season and trailing him are Solignac (11), DeLeeuw (11) and Goossens (10). Although those numbers should be worrying on their own, TFC has allowed just 11 shots on target over the course of their last three matches. Whether it’s the tactical awareness in midfield or an improved back line, the fact remains that Toronto does not allow the opposition many opportunities to score. Their Eastern Conference low of 37 GA speaks for itself (at least on the surface) and there is perhaps no better way of illustrating that the Fire need a CAM than by finishing the campaign against this TFC side.

History in the Making: While Chicago fans have it pretty bad, TFC fans can commiserate. This is just their second ever playoff appearance and last year’s historic feat was overshadowed by a play-in game loss to bitter rivals Montreal. The FO will want to prove that they have gotten it right this time around so a lot rides on this match. Yes, their first ever home playoff match has already been secured, TFC wouldn’t mind a bye week to gather their thoughts and fully rest some of their players. Ultimately that decision is out of their hands but three points is the minimum requirement. We would assume that Toronto comes out “Full Power”—as Veljko Paunovic would say—and looks to get ahead early in this one.

Weaknesses: There are sure to be some weak spots in this TFC side as pressure mounts heading into their first ever home playoff match. There is no doubt that TFC has more quality than Chicago but will their minds be in the right place? Let’s take a look.

Goals Against Can Be Deceiving: That marvelous stat from above isn’t all that it’s built up to be. Their shrewd acquisitions of Drew Moor and Steven Beitashour along with an improved season from Justin Morrow seem to be paying off overall but Toronto has a bad habit of conceding at the most inopportune times. Yes, there is never a good time to concede but giving up goals soon after scoring, right before half time, right after half time, or in the dying minutes of the game have been in TFC’s wheelhouse all too often this season.

The onus of this cannot be laid entirely on the back line because the buildup style of play instituted by the squad means that everyone has to take responsibility on the defensive end as well. They move like a well-oiled machine offensively but there are times when TFC supporters would like to see Altidore close down quicker, Ricketts and Hamilton track back, Giovinco minimize space between the attack and the midfield in transition, etc. History insinuates that there will be at least one clear cut opportunity for Chicago in this one.

One Man Show: The biggest weakness that has been evident with this TFC side has been their over reliance on Giovinco. While some pundits will argue that this is not the case, Toronto has gone winless in five matches since they took all three points at Toyota Park, a span which saw Giovinco in the stands for the first four of those. His recent return against Montreal was capped off with a late assist to Tosaint Ricketts to salvage a point for his side, another indication that he is absolutely integral for TFC. Stopping him is no easy feat but Chicago might get a helping hand from Patrick Vieira. If Giovinco starts and Toronto goes into half time seeing NYCFC up over Columbus by a wide margin we doubt that Vanney will trot him out for the second half. He won’t admit it but publicly but TFC’s title chances really rest on the shoulders of the small man from Turin. With nothing else left to play for, a few tough yellow card worthy challenges could find Giovinco subbed off and wrapped in bubble wrap.

Drop in Form and a Drop in Mentality: Whether or not Giovinco and his quality performances are back, the fact that TFC has gone on this winless streak leading into the playoffs cannot be overlooked. Year after year MLS sees teams that build momentum late go deep into the post season—last year’s Portland side and LA the year before are clear examples of this. Toronto’s last three matches do not reflect anything close to a strong mentality. They went down twice against Montreal in their last match and despite what Vanney says about tying on the road he cannot be happy with the performance. In the match against DC, Toronto took an early lead only to give up two unanswered goals for their seventh home loss of the season. Eastern Conference bottom dwellers Orlando City managed to stifle TFC in a 0-0 draw on match day 30. Those three performances should worry TFC and give Chicago a glimmer of hope.

Furthermore, in their midweek interviews Greg Vanney, Armando Cooper, Drew Moor, and Jon Osorio were unanimous in reflecting that TFC will need to have a change in mentality heading into the last match day. You cannot just snap your fingers to fix your form and saying you’ll be positive is a far cry from seeing that reflected on the pitch. In a strange way Chicago enters this match with an edge in the mental game.

Prediction: We’ve long lost the motivation to predict results but seeing as this is the last preview of the season we’ll return to our hopeful ways. Chicago 3-2 Toronto. David Accam reaches double digits, Michael DeLeeuw continues to show that Rodriguez got something right, and Arturo Alvarez ensures that the Fire increase their matching contribution to his pension. It has been an absolute pleasure writing these previews for you gals and guys this season. A special thanks to Guillermo for allowing me to do so, and an even bigger thanks to those of you that read them. Enjoy your offseason and we’ll see you in February. Cheers!

Filed under: 2016 Regular Season

Tags: Chicago Fire

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  • On "Fire Weekly" this morning, the guys mentioned that Dillon Powers of Colorado and Kevin Molino of Orlando might be available next year. Powers is not getting a lot of PT and Molino doesn't really fit Kreis' system. I would love to see the Fire pick these guys up. Thoughts?

  • In reply to tomwhitt:

    You know they would be a nice addition. But we need a game changing center midfielder.

  • In reply to tomwhitt:

    Those guys would be viable pieces but they need to step up large outside of the league shopping market.
    They'd also need to have something to give up for those guys.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    TAM for days!!!

  • It toke joe madden about 3 years to get here where they are today. Happy for the cubs but Why I am writing this is because hopefully Veljko could do the same with Fire and atleast get them to the playoffs next year. This season flew by really fast and especially want to congratulate all of you guys in the comments for making this franchise interesting. Love hearing all the opinions. I'm only 16 but I am like a diehard Fire fan and this is like my 2nd year where I actually check all the news on this team. Will miss waking up each Saturday or Sunday already thinking about the games, but I also can't wait for the offseason and what we will do. Let's make this club relevant again. I saw a prediction today on the Toronto and Chicago game and it was 6:3 for the Toronto (shows me everyone thinks we're garbage) but in my heart and love for this team,I see the fire ending positive and winning this game 4-2 and getting revenge on Toronto for beating us at Toyota Park. Guillermo start making the new stories and sharing the rumors for/in the offseason please.

  • In reply to Firefan5819:

    Thanks....hopefully I'll have better things to write about next year.

  • When is that transfer shortlist/recommendation list story coming out?

  • In reply to Firefan5819:

    Never mind the subplot. When is a REAL owner taking over?!?

  • In reply to Arklow:

    It just doesn't seem like Hauptman will sell the team, but I hope soon.

  • In reply to Arklow:

    It just doesn't seem like, Hauptman will sell the team. But I hope he does.
    It's also amazing that a team like Houston Dynamo have a better points per game, have conceded less, and have more points than us. It so disappointing.

  • In reply to Firefan5819:

    In the next 3-4 weeks.

  • guys to be honest the team is no better today than it was two years ago. Yes there are a few decent players from Europe that are at the tail end of their careers but we are still in last place. What in the earth was andy thinking when he named two rookies In NR and Pauno to lead the worst team in the league. Did he expect a winner or just two cheap staff members that could lead the team to an eventual sale? How many business's that have had a bad year hire someone with no successful experience as the general manager and not expect a repeat? Pauno and Nr should be at the airport with one way tickets to their homes. Question Guillermo did NR finally move his family to Chicago or is he still in the big apple?
    When the opening lineup was announced I was absolutely amazed that he started Arshakyan over anybody on the team. He was absolutely terrible and never should be considered an MLS professional. The thought of NR and Pauno on world wide scouting trips is almost a joke. Hopefully the sale of the team is something that will be announced in the coming months. If that happens I will be the first guy on line buying season tickets.

  • In reply to Brokerman:

    There is only a 1 point improvement from last season to this season. Still let in 58 goals but only scored 42. BWP scored 24 on his own this season. We won one less game than last season. We still have no idea what our best lineup is. We still need an central and attacking midfielder. We still need a rb. We will most likely need a replacement for Accam and Sean this off season. We have zero idea of what our youth players can do. We have a coach who is proud of the team for the identity that they have forged this year. We are in a worse spot right now than we were last year. At least last year we had hope that a manager was going to come in and change everything for the better. This year, we are stuck with this guy who is in way over his head and literally no hope in sight. Not one player improved under Pauno. Polster took a step backwards this year, unfortunately. We are so far away from being any good it is not only scary, but sad.

    There is no way this year was part of the "three year plan."

  • In reply to Brokerman:

    N-Rod isn't a rookie, way back in 1999 he led the NY/NJ Metrostars to the worst record in MLS history. So there is that for experience.

  • In reply to penapirata:

    You know N-Rod has done a good job with his his signings. But he has made mistakes and has to do something big this January.

  • In reply to ChicagoFireBlogger:

    Really? How do you justify that he has done a good job with signings without results on the field?

  • In reply to penapirata:

    Jao Meira, Kappelhof, Alvarez, De Leeuw and Solignac were all good signings. They just need some more prices to the puzzle to be a playoff team. Like a game changing CAM.
    All so give Nelson one more year. You guys are judging him to quick. Give him one more ear to lay down his plan and then make judgements. You aren't giving him a chance.

  • In reply to ChicagoFireBlogger:

    I think we're just tired of giving this team chances. We're a sponge with no water left to squeeze out of it. A tire without any more tread. A prisoner who's broken and gone crazy from Chinese drip torture. Or just a fan base who's sick of how the ownership (yeah, you, Andell Holdings) has run this team into the ground, and would like to words from the management team that don't sound like diplomatically polite language. We've hung around this long, you can tell us the truth. Though, it's not like there's that many more people left to drive away.

    Can NRVP do better next year? Potentially. But the proof will be in the pudding if the shiny new things produce.

    Let's see the Results.

  • In reply to BrianC.:

    You know Brian, sometimes you just have to wait. Sometimes you just have to keep on waiting and waiting and eventually that day will come. We are all clearly tired. But can we control the Fires results on the field? Do we control the choices that management makes? We have the smallest of impact on those things. Hauptman doesn't read these blogs. If your tired then take action. Make a poster and hold it up in the Harlem End. Start a Hauptman out chant. We keep on complaining about this season but we have to look at the positives. TAKE ACTION. How do you think that people, that their rights changed? They did protests. They boycotted. If your tired than take action.

  • In reply to ChicagoFireBlogger:

    You'd be surprised at who reads this blog.

  • In reply to ChicagoFireBlogger:

    I will take action if it is another abysmal season next year, I will give up my season ticket after 20 years.

  • In reply to ChicagoFireBlogger:

    In the bundesliga, you have at best half a season with decisions like what was made this year. Over there, Pauno and or NRod would have been sacked before the end of the first half of the season. You'ld be surprised how fast they will go through coaches and managers there that don't perform. Considering that we earned 1 more point this year than last year, I think its pretty fair to say that we could have done just as well without replacing the entire team. We may even have been able to do better as we wouldn't have had to rebuild chemistry every two months. Could still have brought in a couple of the key pieces to strengthen our weaknesses while building on the strengths of the previous season. But instead the decision was made that they could do better with a brand new team. Well that didn't come true.

    We've been setting records of all the wrong kinds for the last few years. There isn't a lot of patience left for the FO. I do feel bad for any coach, Veljko or anyone else, because at this point there is no easing in. Its either perform or get out. At least for me it is. You want my support... Earn it.

  • In reply to edubs:

    Yes your right. But it's hard for someone to implement a plan in the span of one year. Give him one more year than make all your judgements. He had only two transfer windows and the addition of de Leeuw and Solignac were good. Let's see if he can sign a good CAM this January.
    Also this isn't the bundesliga. MLS is far more different. If they were to sack Nelson then they would've had a hard time finding a good new GM.

  • In reply to ChicagoFireBlogger:

    Colorado had the same 2 transfer windows and went from 2nd to last in the league in 2015 to 2nd best in 2016, just sayin. MLS is a league where you can finish last one year and do great the next year. DC in 2013 16 points and only 3 wins, 2014 they had 17 wins and 59 points. The right soccer minds can turnaround any situation, N-Rod is not that kind of soccer mind. i just don't buy your give them time argument when the same was said about Yallop. Hauptman is not a good judge of people to run the Fire plain and simple. He thinks he knows what he is doing but he is horrible at it. Until he either stops hiring the people directly or sells the team not much is going to change. Next year N-Rod's goals are going to be less than this year as he will probably say that they just want to make the playoffs. Not win the whole thing but just to be in the conversation at the end of the season.

  • In reply to ChicagoFireBlogger:

    They don't need a good new GM, they just need a decent GM as it would probably be a better GM then NRod at this point. NRod is a politician, and he is really good at that. I question his ability to be a GM though. Again we will see what this transfer window brings, but he hasn't given us any reason to believe that he has improved the scouting network for the Fire. So if the scouting network is still as bad as it was when he was blasting it at the beginning of the season, then why would we expect it to be any better then years past?

    Sure there were some decent signings, but to me it was only a shuffle of the deck of the similar caliber players that they got rid of. It hasn't moved the needle 1 iota, so what has he earned?

    Solignac, I was excited about him when he came. But he's been a non entity for a number of games.

    De Leeuw has been a good addition. He fills the Mike Magee role (1 for 1 swap if the coach can keep Magee from complaining). What is De Leeuw really good at? Creating space in the box. He's a poacher. Which is good because we need that. But unfortunately we got rid of all the players that could cross the ball to him.

    We got rid of Shipp who had really good distribution, you can say he was replaced by Alvarez.

    As penapirata points out, you can turn around a team in 1 year in MLS. It happens all the time. What NRod and Pauno needed to show me this year.

    Lets look at the other things that would point to a 3 year improvement. Pauno hasn't played any of the young players for any meaningful minutes, so there is a lack of developing the young talent. I guess this isn't how he's planning on improving talent over the next 2 years. He hasn't decided that the Fire need their own USL side to farm players and give them an opportunity to improve/grow. In fact he's come out and said the opposite. That they don't need one. So he isn't planning on improving the team that way in the next 2 years. He's passed on a few DP players that fill positions that the Fire woefully need. So it doesn't seem that he is looking to improve the fire that way. Short of him going out on the field himself.... I don't see where this improvement is happening. There was the one hiring for the Academy, but the academy won't be able to provide better young talent any sooner then in 5 years (Once they leave the academy, players first go to college... usually). The improvement to the Academy is good, but if you don't have a commitment to getting these players professional playing time, as Pauno hasn't been doing, then it won't mean anything.

    The only scenario that this season falls into a 3 year plan is if NRod made a deal with Hauptman along the lines of "I'll play your moneyball team for 1 year. Then we do it my way and bring in some powerhitters a la LA/Toronto and drop some serious cash" unless this was the plan all along, then I don't think that I should be expected to be patient with a couple people that haven't shown any improvement over the course of an entire season.

  • In reply to Brokerman:

    When ever I talk to Fire representatives they are always up selling for season tickets. It's so hard to by single game tickets, it's takes for ever.

  • In reply to Brokerman:

    Your right since if you take Colorado, some changes and their from last to a playoff spot. We need some smart off season moves and we can be in a playoff spot again.

  • I find it kind of funny when their goal for this season was 50 points. 50 points would have put us at 7th in the league behind Dallas, Colorado, Red Bulls, NYC, TFC, and LA. 50 points would have only been 10 points from the supporters shield not 29 points where we ended up.

    GR - Make sure you ask N-Rod is he was a little bit off in their goals.

  • In reply to penapirata:

    Sorry, make sure you ask him if he takes full responsibility for this season.

  • fb_avatar

    Hey GR,
    What do you make of Ramos getting the start yesterday? In my opinion, already at age 21, he is already an average mls defender but his x-factor is his ability to get the ball into the opponents half of the field and create chances. This is invaluable for a team with a midfield that struggled to get the ball forward. Yesterday's start along with NR mentioning him in a positive light in a recent interview have me wondering if they are actually smart enough to keep him around. Is there a possibility that there were triggers in his contract that he was about to go over and since the season was over for Chicago so early, they opted to just bench him so the triggers weren't hit and they could sign him cheaper? I really think they need to keep the current defender stable they have (minus Harrington) and sign one additional full back and focus the rest of their scouting efforts on the other two lines.

    As far as the Toronto game goes, it really wasn't too bad. They may have even got a result if Giovinco didnt take a leaping dive in the box lol...that was the worst one I've seen in awhile and I'm pretty sure the ref saw it at half time because it seemed like he was trying to make some make up calls.

  • In reply to Carl Miller:

    I'd be somewhat surprised if they brought Ramos back.

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