If ever there was a good time to play Toronto FC, this might be it.
Toronto’s reigning Major League Soccer MVP Sebastian Giovinco will be out with a quad injury when TFC visits the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park on Saturday.
In addition, Toronto’s other two Designated Players, Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore, started and played all 90 minutes for the U.S. national team on Tuesday. Both are expected to play against the Fire. Altidore has been red hot with five goals in his past seven MLS matches despite only starting three of those after returning from injury.
Toronto (12-8-7, 43 points) is chasing first place in the Eastern Conference, sitting one point behind New York City FC but with a game in hand. The Fire (6-12-8, 26 points) recently moved out of last place in the league, but still need a few more wins to get back into the playoff race. The match will be televised on CSN+ (channel finder) with coverage beginning at 7:30 p.m.
“We believe that for sure Giovinco is an important player for them, but we know that they are one of the best teams in the league in our conference and they have resources to respond for that,” Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said. “We know that’s going to be a very difficult game. We know they are very competitive. They are fighting for the first position. They are a team that is very consistent so far in the league and we know that we have to be on our best in order to be competitive and win the game.”
The Fire also have a pair of players returning from international duty in David Accam, who played in two games for Ghana, and David Arshakyan, who debuted and played 70 minutes for Armenia in a World Cup qualifying loss at Denmark on Sunday. The recently acquired Arshakyan could be in line to make his home debut. Adding two international-level players to an attack that is coming off a 3-goal performance and one of its best games of the year against Philadelphia last weekend will give Paunovic some difficult choices come Saturday.
“I think we have a great opportunity,” Paunovic said. “Winning the game will be not just the starting part of the streak of games that we have at home and winning those, but also I think it’s a great opportunity to come closer to the playoffs. Saying that I think it’s going to give us a huge, huge boost in order to finish building the best we can.”
Midfielder Khaly Thiam is eligible to return after serving his red card suspension last week. Forward Luis Solignac is the only player listed on the Fire’s injury report. He is listed as questionable with a groin injury.
Chicago Fire vs. Toronto FC
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
TV: CSN+ (channel finder)
Where: Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Ill.