Prime Your Fire Pump: Chicago at Toronto FC

Can Patrick Nyarko and company force Toronto to chase the game? (photo: chicago-fire.com)

Can Patrick Nyarko and company force Toronto to chase the game? (photo: chicago-fire.com)

OTF’s Jon Denham is back to get you ready for the Fire’s key mid-week game in Toronto, and The Yorkies bring the funny to get you up to speed on hapless Toronto FC… 

What is the prescription for your broken Chicago Fire heart? How about a wonderful string of results on Sunday and a trip to Toronto FC on Wednesday?

It has been 364 days since these teams last met on the pitch. The Men in Red have won four straight games in this series, including all three a year ago, and they don’t seem to have any issues playing at BMO Field. They’ve scored two, three, and two goals in the last three games there. Chicago averages two goals per game in the venue all time (16 goals in eight games).

You know what the best part about Hunter Jumper’s goal against Sporting Kansas City was? It came in the thirteenth minute. My point is that this isn’t the part of the season where you sit on your hands and try to figure things out in the early going against a team you haven’t played in a calendar year.

I believe the Fire would be best suited to identify Toronto FC for what it is and go for the jugular. The Reds are coming off a thumping in Portland. They haven’t won at home in a month. The roster is showing up to the field every day wondering who their coach is and if they’ll be traded or released before lunch.

It appears we’ll be watching a 4-4-2 versus 4-4-2 under the lights in Ontario.

On the surface this is a perfect chance to play for an early goal against a team that has conceded multiple goals to opponents in five of 13 home games this year. Toronto is now winless in their last five games. The old narrative about scoring first under Klopas automatically turning into points was turned on its head on Saturday in Seattle.

Sometimes that broken heart of yours needs to go out and let loose and have a good time, doesn’t it?

How They Stand in the East

9.10.13standings

In case you live under a rock, I’ll remind you that Chicago Fire SC remains two points out of the fifth and final playoff spot with 35 points. The road ahead is pretty clear.

Each of the top seven teams in the East has won either 10 or 13 times.

Montreal, New York, and Kansas City are each at 45 points and six points clear of fourth place Philadelphia. The Impact even have two games in hand to go with their conference-best 45 goals. New England and Houston remain tied at 37 points at 10-10-7.

After this Wednesday night tilt, things will get interesting over the weekend. What we do know is Kansas City will remain at 45 points.

We’re all aware New England is coming to Toyota Park this Saturday, and Philadelphia will host Houston in the other must-scoreboard watch game this weekend.

Tactics, Lineup, & Injuries

The Fire will still be without Cacha Rios and Joel Lindpere, but is there plenty of Patrick Nyarko to go around? Fitness concerns have swirled around Nyarko, but given the importance of this game, I’ve got to believe he’ll be inserted against the lowly Canadians from the opening whistle.

I continue to believe the lineup below gives the Men in Red a chance to prevent goals in the absence of Cacha Rios, and allows Chris Rolfe a chance to enter the game in a handful of places. This requires “good” Anangonó to show up and stretch the Toronto back line. If Rolfe starts where I have Magee, maybe the magician can rest for the full 90 minutes ahead of the clash with New England. A groin injury is not to be messed with.

This is put-up-or-shut-up time for Bakary Soumare, period. Hunter Jumper has shown, albeit in limited action, that he is capable. We won’t know if he is more than capable without a bigger sample size. I am glad to hear Soumare sat down with Jeff Crandall, but he seems to have sloppily made his bed. Now he needs to sleep in it.

I’d also like to give Victor Pineda a chance in the 18 on Wednesday.

 

821388_Chicago_Fire

Projected bench: Tornaghi; Pause, Paladini, Amarikwa, Jumper, Rolfe (or Magee), and Victor Pineda 

OTF’s Jon Denham grew up about seven miles north of The Harlem End. He now lives in Dubuque, Iowa, and may be its only resident with the MLS Direct Kick package. Jon’s the Sports Information Director and goalkeepers’ coach at Loras College, and writes some other stuff at Inclusive Beechwood Aging.

A visit from our northern cousins, The Yorkies

Hey Chicago, we’re The Yorkies, purveyors of malarkey and highly justified Toronto FC pessimism since 2007 – “Ask for us by name”.  Think of us as your backwards Cousin Balki from the other side of the Great Lakes. Blew your mind with that Chicago name droppin’ right there didn’t we?

Anyhoo, since it’s the first time in our role as On The Fire’s Toronto correspondent, let’s have a brief look at the Chicago Fire/TFC history. Way back on May 12, 2007, the winless and goal-phobic Reds hosted your hometown Fire. Buoyed by  Toronto legend/headwax enthusiast Danny Dichio, TFC famously got their first goal and first win in front of “MLS’ Greatest Fans in All Timez”™ (Not our words but almost Don Garber’s) Oh we lorded  it over Chicago that day! Good times were on the way!

Yeah… so… that was pretty much the highlight of Toronto FC to this day.

Since that moment of premature exaltation, TFC has digested a gaggle of managers, front office staff and around 300-800* players over 7 seasons (*source: My angry memory). While international football greats like Martin Saric, Collin Samuel, and Raivis Hscanovics are long gone, we now find ourselves under the guidance of Maple Leaf “Sports” & “Entertainment” Emperor Tim Leiweke and head coach Ryan Nelsen. Things are better. So we are told. Constantly.

(image: theyorkies1812.blogspot.com)

(image: theyorkies1812.blogspot.com)

Nelsen has admittedly improved TFC’s porous goals-against numbers of 2012 (Saturday’s 4-0 at Portland? A blip we tells ya! A blip!), but the Reds couldn’t score if they were sitting next to Sloane Peterson in a hot tub while Cameron floated on the bottom of a nearby pool. See what I did there Chicago? Local reference!

We hear things aren’t too happy over there at Toyota Park but there is little to fear from this TFC side. Our best player, young DP Matias Laba, is broken for the season,  a raft of newcomers have yet to do anything of note, and the only true goal scorer we have on the books, rehab aficionado Danny Koevermans, is off eating pancakes as he sees out the last days of a wealthy MLS contract.

Throw in a freshly fired President/GM in Kevin Payne, Monday’s trading of a guy we chased for 9 months then played for 37 minutes, and strong verbal hints from Tim Leiweke that CFL gridiron is coming to BMO Field and we’re an awfully happy bunch.  As bad as things may be on the western shores of the Great Lakes, give your team a kiss and a cuddle – they will never be the crapstorm that is Toronto FC.

Will things change soon for the young and eternally re-building Reds? In the words of renowned Chicagoan immigrant Balki Bartokomous… “Don’t be ridiculous!”

Tony Walsh is Managing Editor of Ontario’s #1 soccer export — The Yorkies (Sorry DeRo). Tony and his loyalist collective have been the voice of Toronto FC supporters since 2007.

****

Chicago Fire at Toronto FC
Wednesday, September 11th at 6:30pm cst
Television: My50Chicago
La radio en Español: La Ley 107.9 FM en Chicago

#cf97 Nation

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