Toronto FC-Fire Preview
After 13 years in Bridgeview, the Fire are finally leaving the 'burbs and coming home to Chicago.
Looking to extend their slim playoff hopes into the final matchday of the season, the Fire play their final match at SeatGeek Stadium on Sunday when they host Toronto FC.
After two separate stints at Soldier Field interrupted by a two-year stretch in Naperville while the home of the Chicago Bears underwent renovations, the Fire (9-12-11) moved into a soccer-specific stadium in Bridgeview, Illinois, in the southwest suburbs of the city in 2006. The team negotiated a deal with the village to break its lease during the summer and will return to Soldier Field for the 2020 season, with the hope it will reconnect with the city's fan base and spur an impetus for a soccer-specific stadium within the city limits.
"The vision of the club is three-fold," majority owner Joe Mansueto said recently in a video released by the team. "One is to win championships. Secondly, we need a world-class soccer organization and third is to deeply engage with all of Chicago and make more Chicago Fire fans."
Bucking the odds to get into the playoffs this year could certainly help that momentum, but it will be a tough road for the Fire. They enter this game eighth in the East on 38 points, four back of New England for the final playoff spot and need to win their final two matches since they currently have fewer wins than the Revolution.
Though unbeaten in its last three contests (1-0-2), Chicago missed a prime opportunity to pick up three points Sept. 21 when it was held to a scoreless draw at first-year MLS side FC Cincinnati. The Fire had just one shot on target despite controlling play for long stretches, and keeper Kenneth Kronholm preserved the clean sheet and point by pushing Roland Lamah's shot around the post in the 79th minute.
Toronto FC (12-10-10) still has plenty at stake as it has a chance to host a first-round playoff game. The Reds can assure themselves of no worse than sixth with a victory or if the New England Revolution lose to New York City FC on Sunday and are two points out of fourth while the two teams directly above them - D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls - play each other Sunday.
TFC are looking to rebound from losing the Voyageurs Cup on penalties to Montreal on Wednesday night after winning the second leg of the final 1-0. The defeat denied Toronto a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League for 2020, though it can still claim a spot by winning the MLS Cup.
"This competition is over now," said goalkeeper Alex Bono to TFC's official website. "It's disappointing we weren't able to lift the trophy again, but, for us, we know there is more for this group. We're in position to do some more special things this year, that's what our focus is on.
"Tonight is over, our sole focus is on the league," he continued. "We've got two regular season games and then playoffs. We know what lies ahead, it's our job to flip the switch, put away this competition and focus on the league now."
The Reds are unbeaten in their last eight in league play (3-0-5) after playing Supporters' Shield-winning Los Angeles FC to a 1-1 draw on the road Sept. 21. Tsubasa Endoh made their only shot on target count with a goal in the 19th minute, but VAR adjudged Chris Mavinga to have committed a foul taking down Latif Blessing inside the 18 in stoppage time, leading to Carlos Vela's 95th-minute equalizer.
The teams played to a 2-2 draw in Toronto on April 6, with Jozy Altidore scoring a first-half goal and setting up Jonathan Osorio's equalizer in the 76th minute for the Reds, bracketing goals by C.J. Sapong and Nemanja Nikolic.
Updated September 27, 2019