The Chicago Fire have back-to-back wins for the first time this season and will try for another first on Saturday: a road victory.
The Fire head to the renovated BMO Field to take on Toronto FC at 6:30 p.m. on CSN (Fire Pregame Live airs at 6 p.m.).
The last time the Fire won a road game was July 12, 2014, in New England. A loss or draw in Canada would mean the Fire will have gone more than two years without a road victory.
However, unlike recent road defeats at Philadelphia and Colorado, where the Fire entered as significant underdogs against teams that were leading their respective conferences, there is reason to think the Fire (3-7-5, 14 points) have a chance in Toronto (5-6-5, 20 points).
The Reds will be without Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Will Johnson and goalkeeper Clint Irwin. All four are notable or better names in Major League Soccer and will drastically alter what Toronto will try to do on Saturday.
“We are focused only on our team,” Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said when asked about Toronto’s injuries. “Now on the road again it’s another opportunity to break down that negative record that we have in the last couple of years. We will focus on our team. We will do our best, we will prepare and we really wish the next game to be successful for us.”
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In the Fire’s two straight wins they have hosted teams dealing with significant injury lists in Columbus and San Jose. Toronto keeps that streak going.
This one also could be one of the more interesting tactical matchups for the Fire. With all those key names missing, Toronto will have to get creative tactically. There’s always the threat with reigning MVP Sebastian Giovinco, but beyond that there’s a lot of questions.
As for the Fire, how Paunovic inserts new forward Michael de Leeuw into a fully-healthy squad will be intriguing. Both the Fire’s formation and how long de Leeuw plays will be worth watching for. Paunovic said earlier this week that de Leeuw will be in the matchday roster, but gave no further details.
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No matter how de Leeuw ends up fitting in, he is joining a team that is arguably playing as well as it has all season.
“I noticed that the confidence is building,” de Leeuw said. “The last two games we won. We played good, we created chances and that’s the most important thing. Of course to score the chances because then you can win. I feel a lot of confidence. We have a good group.”
Chicago Fire at Toronto FC
When: 6:30 p.m. Saturday (coverage begins at 6 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live)
TV: CSN Chicago
Where: BMO Field, Toronto