Blog

Toronto FC

11 April 7:58 am

Whether you like having just a few libations with some of the club’s most ardent supporters, enjoy the beautiful landscapes of rural Indiana, Michigan and Missouri, or just really like seeing the Chicago Fire play away from home, Section 8 On Tour Bus Trips (#S8OT) have something for everyone.

Returning this year, the Independent Supporters Association is offering all Fire supporters an away season ticket, which guarantees round trip bus fare and match tickets for this season’s Fire away games in Columbus (May 24), Kansas City (July 6) and Toronto (August 23) for just $200.

While the execution of an Away Season Ticket isn’t something new to Section 8 Chicago, it does return for the first time in a number of years because of the way the MLS schedule fell for the club’s three closest away trips according to ISA Chairman Jeff Marinacci. 

“The stars aligned for us,” he told Chicago-Fire.com this week. “When we saw the schedule, having Toronto on a summer weekend makes it an easy sell. Though Columbus or Kansas City are good road games, Toronto just offers so much more, the trip is worth doing outside of just going to watch a match.”

Toronto nightlife no doubt has more to offer than Kansas City or Columbus but what Marinacci is referring to is the fact that the past few seasons, the team has played away in Toronto at midweek in September, making it difficult to coordinate a strong contingent of Fire supporters to travel by bus.

 This year the Columbus and Toronto trips both fall on Saturdays, while the Kansas City trip falls on the Sunday of Independence Day weekend making the travel much easier all around.

As they do on all buses, Section 8 Chicago is subsidizing an additional $35 per person on the 2014 Away Season Ticket on top of the $50 subsidy provided for individual bus travel to these matches.

“Our commitment to spending our money is to support the guys on the field home and away,” he said.

A great deal no doubt, not what if someone buying can only make it on one or two of the trips instead of the full complement of three? Marinacci said that while there is no partial away season ticket (and no refunds), the ISA will accommodate ticket transfers as coordinated through communications@s8c.org.

Now through mid-May (when bus tickets for the Columbus trip will cut off), Section 8 Chicago is in a heavy push to sell the Away Season Ticket for the year. As part of that push, the ISA will be raffling one off during Saturday’s Watch Party at A.J. Hudsons

Next Saturday, the ISA will raffle off a second Away Season Ticket, purchased by the Club, at their tailgate in the north lot prior to the Chicago Fire/New England Revolution match.

If you’d rather just support a great initiative to get more Fire fans out on the road this season, go ahead and buy your Away Season Ticket by clicking here.

25 November 3:04 pm

One of my favorite days of the year is the day the MLS schedule is released.

For many fans, this announcement means compiling a list of blackout days where the Fire are playing at Toyota Park. For Fire fans not residing in the Chicagoland area, it means finding out when the Men in Red will be visiting your nearest MLS team. But for someone like me who has been on quite a few road trips (over 50 but not as many as this guy), the schedule release day means not only looking at the home fixtures but also the away ones.

Questions I asked myself earlier today: Does Toronto away fall on weekend instead of a Wednesday night? How much does it cost to fly to Portland in March? These important questions get answered on this special day.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at five exciting dates in the 2014 Fire calendar:

Week 2 – Portland away – Saturday, March 15 

Ever since Portland came into the league in 2011, the Fire supporters umbrella, Section 8 Chicago, has had a very good relationship with the Timbers Army, Portland’s main supporters group. The relationship is based on mutual respect and a shared “dislike” of all things Seattle.

Fire fans are always treated well in Portland and it’s not uncommon for Fire and Timbers fans to hang out before and after the games, something you would never see Fire fans doing in Columbus or Kansas City.

The atmosphere at JELD-Wen Field is also second to none. Though is certainly isn’t going to be the easiest away trip on the field or the lightest on the wallet, I think we will see quite a few Fire fans making the trip to Portland in Week 2 instead of traveling to LA to watch the Fire face Chivas in the season opener.

Week 6 & 22 – Montreal away – Saturday, April 12 and Sunday, August 16

The Fire were the Montreal Impact’s opponents in the Canadian club’s first home MLS back in 2012 and I was lucky enough to be at the game and had a great time.

That game was played indoors at the Olympic Stadium with a less than favorable playing surface – something many of the Fire fans observed firsthand the day before the game when we were invited to watch the team train (see photo above).

Now the Impact have Saputo Stadium refurbished, which provides another incentive for traveling Fire fans who may not have gotten there earlier this year.

Montreal is also a unique MLS city for a number of reasons. I can’t think of another MLS city where fans can brush up on their French by talking to the locals or take in the spectacular Notre-Dame basilica while eating some amazing poutine!

Montreal can be quite cold in April, but luckily for Fire fans, the April date is only the first time the Men in Red visit The City of Saints. I hear the weather is a lot nicer in mid-August, when the Fire visit for the second time.

Week 11 – Columbus away – Saturday, May 24

Columbus or Fire House East as many Fire fans call it is the closest away trip of the season distance wise. Due to this fact, the number of Fire fans attending this match is exponentially bigger than most other away games.

In 2001, Fire fans went to Crew Stadium in their hundreds, even when the Fire was not playing! The Fire had been knocked out in the Conference Semifinals by the Los Angeles Galaxy and many fans turned up to cheer against LA (and for the then Frank Yallop-led San Jose Earthquakes) at MLS Cup.

There have been many highs experienced in Columbus, such as Paulo Wanchope’s winning goal in a 2007 match after the game was delayed due to a torrential downpour. Fire fans were also 45 minutes away from MLS Cup in 2008 but for a Crew comeback in the second half which left Fire fans, including myself, devastated. There’s also the 2012 invasion which saw 600 Fire supporters make the trek.

The Fire only play once at Fire House East this season and I expect to see a lot of red behind the goal on May 24.

Week 16 & 32 Kansas City away –Sunday, July 6 &  Friday, October 10

Kansas City is another road trip that fans have attended in large numbers throughout the years. My first trip to Kansas City was a disappointing one, with the Fire losing to the Kansas City Wizards in the final of the U.S. Open Cup in 2004.

Since then, the Kansas franchise has a new name and a soccer specific stadium. You can no longer play the count the crowd game that we often did when the Wizards played at Arrowhead Stadium.

Most fans travel to this game by bus thus skipping the “delights” of downtown Kansas City and the bus ride does offer one cool treat – a visit to the world’s largest truck stop in Iowa.

Though SKC are not really a Fire rival (despite efforts made by the KC front office to make it into something bigger) there is certainly a dislike between the players and fans on both sides.

With the October 11 game coming so late in the season, it may be a pivotal one in terms of Playoff positioning.

Week 23 – Toronto away – Saturday, August 23

By far my favorite MLS city to travel to is Toronto. It's roughly the same distance from Chicago as Kansas City and again many fans travel to Canada on supporter’s buses.

Each visit, Fire fans shack up at a great hostel where we run into soccer fans from all over the world. Toronto itself is a great city aside from the prohibitive drinking laws on weekends (who doesn’t want to have a pint at 10am while watching the Premier League the next morning?).

BMO Field is located right on the shores of Lake Ontario and is thus left exposed and is often windy and chilly but the warm pies served at some of the concessions stands are an excellent halftime treat.

On the field, the Fire have had some good success against a TFC team that has languished near the bottom of the MLS table since starting in 2007. Thankfully, this match is on a Saturday in August so I expect a much larger contingent of Fire fans to attend.

Stephen Piggott is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @Irish_Steve.

21 October 1:46 pm

What's more awesome than watching a Mike Magee penalty kick conversion? Watching a Mike Magee penalty kick conversion in slow motion, of course!

With the magic of a GoPro camera, a talented videographer (@laflores037), and some editing software, we're able to make it happen.

Check out this sweet video below, and remember to tweet your support of #MikeMageeMVP!

 

21 October 12:22 pm

There were shots off the post, a disallowed goal, more Sean Johnson saves, the dramatic contexts of playoff contention and the last regular season home game of the season - Saturday’s win had a handful of talking points, but it had really only one truly interesting scene: Mike Magee’s game winning penalty.

Because despite the atmosphere and everything that was at stake, the game, in fact was pretty flat. Maybe it was the rain-soaked field, maybe it was a bit of nerves but Fire fans had to be uncomfortable when they saw the first 10 minutes with little of the urgency, high pressure, and high defensive line that pushed the team to those two huge away wins in D.C. and Dallas. Toronto was finding gaps all over the field to exploit and if it wasn’t for such bad finishing by Robert Earnshaw, they would’ve been in front.

The Fire grew into the game, however, and were in control when Magee scored the winning penalty. Then, as we’ve seen for the past month or so, the Fire managed the remainder of the and took all the points.

So maybe it’s good that it wasn’t a spectacle of high drama. Maybe it was just a professional victory -- a cold blooded three point snatch.

But then there was Magee’s PK.

Just a few weeks ago, Magee hit the crossbar with what would’ve been a game winning PK against Montreal. It cost the Fire two crucial points. “Tonight's on me,” he said after the game. “It won't be the last one I miss but I'm confident taking them and I'll bury the next one.”

It’s more or less the approach you expect from someone leading the league in goals and there aren’t many better opportunities to pad your stats than from the penalty spot.

And yet, and YET, Saturday’s PK was terrifying. I didn’t like the way Magee looked, I didn’t like his set up. He kept wiping his hands, and he started his run-up exactly at the whistle. You can often tell if a player’s going to score their PK based on their face, their calm, their approach, and their cool. We all know Magee is cool in front of goal, but wouldn’t the Montreal miss be on his mind? There he was, right in front of Section 8, back in his home city, a stadium chanting MVP - it was a moment, just a second or two, where some people might have thought about the whole chaos of the season. All the missed chances, all the posts they hit, all the points they dropped, all the mistakes and antagonism and pressure.

It happened so fast. Magee didn’t let the moment fester. He knew what he was going to do. He knows where the goal is. He wipes his hands, he tugs his shorts down a bit, he looks at the ref waiting for the whistle. When it comes he leaps off the line like a 5k start, skips a bit to the left of the ball, and approaching it that way, executes the deftest of chips right into where the goalie’s chest would’ve been if he hadn’t dove down to his right, where he thought Magee would go.

What I love about the way he took it is that he seemed to beat the rhythm of the game. I wanted a dramatic pause. I wanted to consider the entire season in the moment, and I wanted him to look straight at the keeper with fire in his eyes, like Rivaldo in 2002. But then, that’s what makes him such a good finisher, isn’t it? It’s the way he seems to catch defenders and goalies unaware. For some goals he’s quicker than you think he can be, and for others he seems to wait an eternity before calmly putting it away. The PK on Saturday was a combination of both. It had the quickness to take a few people by surprise (and short circuit any nerves), and the calmness to chip a Pirlo-esque panenka in front of thousands of people, in the most important game of the season.

After the game, Magee admitted he had some nervousness: “Normally I get up there and don't think twice about missing, and this time the last one off the back of the post was on my mind, so I figured I couldn't hit it off the post if I shot it up the middle.”

Even when admitting nerves, he sounds like the doubt in his mind didn’t really make him fear not scoring, it just pushed him to score differently.

And so now the Fire go to New York with nerves and doubts, but like Magee, they’ll have to use those doubts to push forward. They’ve learned from their mistakes against Montreal (and Columbus, and etc. etc.) but for three games in a row they’ve managed games and have a chance to finish the season the way Magee finished his PK: maybe a little afraid of the posts, maybe not exactly with the suave calmness of a secure playoff spot, but with a chance to kill it off, take the points, and head into the playoffs.

20 October 5:13 pm

I'm not going to bog you down with a bunch of math, it is Sunday afterall.

Following New York's 3-0 win today at Houston, the Eastern Conference playoff picture has become very clear heading into the final week of the season.

First I give you the updated table via MLSsoccer.com:

 

Now, the remaining Eastern Conference fixture list...

Saturday, October 26
Philadephia Union  vs. Sporting KC - 2pm CT (NBC Sports Network)
Toronto FC vs. Montreal Impact - 3pm CT (MLS Live)

Sunday, October 27
D.C. United vs. Houston Dynamo - 12:30pm CT (NBC)
Columbus Crew vs. New England Revolution - 3:00pm CT (MLS Live)
New York Red Bulls vs. Chicago Fire - 4:00pm CT (My50/Time Warner Sports WI)

The Chicago Fire can qualify for the MLS Cup playoffs the following ways...

- Win at New York
- Draw/lose at New York and have either Houston draw/lose at D.C. or New England draw/lose at Columbus
- Draw at New York AND Montreal lose at Toronto
 
The Fire can clinch the East's third seed if...

- Win at New York AND Toronto FC win/draw vs. Montreal
- Draw at New York AND Montreal loses at Toronto FC AND New England draws/loses at Columbus AND Houston draws/loses at D.C.

19 October 11:54 pm
Quote Sheet
Chicago Fire vs. Toronto FC
Toyota Park – Bridgeview, IL
Saturday, October 19
 
Frank Klopas, Chicago Fire Head Coach
 
Thoughts on the team’s 1-0 win over Toronto FC…
 
“I think we wanted to make sure this wouldn’t be our last game here at home. It was a good atmosphere tonight and I thought the guys came out and from the start we talked about the field being heavy a little bit with the rain, maybe at times, depending on how the field as to be a little more direct out of the back and play smart. I thought we were good the first half – we created chances and we corrected some things at halftime. We created a lot of opportunities but we were just a little bit unlucky. We didn’t make it as exciting as it was in the end. It was a great result for us in a game where we needed to get the three points and all credit to the team and my players. We’ll enjoy tonight and go back to work tomorrow to prepare for New York.”
 
On not being able to clinch a playoff berth tonight with New England’s win over Columbus…
 
“I think the way the league is when you look at both divisions, the one thing we talked about is just making sure we take care of business and focus on ourselves. Regardless of the other scores, if we don’t get the three points tonight it doesn’t really matter what happens with the other teams. We focused on putting ourselves in a great spot, the team stuck together and I think all these games, even adversity in the beginning has made us a better team. I think you get better through difficult moments and I feel this team right now is better in that sense than the team I had last year winning 17 games. We don’t clinch tonight, it doesn’t matter, we just focus on the next game and it’s exciting to have the opportunity to play another game because one day going by without soccer is not a good day for us. We’re glad we have another one next week and then hopefully more games after that.”
 
On Jeff Larentowicz’s yellow card meaning he’ll miss the season finale at New York…
 
“Jeff is a veteran player but we rely on the team. We’ve talked about this since the beginning and I think there are moments in the season where you’re going to rely on everyone. Jeff has been fantastic for us but other guys will step in and get the job done.”
 
On Mike Magee being a legitimate candidate for MLS MVP after winning the team award Saturday night…
 
“I think with Mike the most important thing is helping the team win, regardless of if he scores or not. That’s the kind of competitor he is. Obviously his performance on the field and what he’s done to be able to change our team since he’s been here – he definitely has to be considered. He’s had a big impact with our team and I think he for sure deserves the award because I’m his coach. I hope he gets it but he’s definitely been a huge part to get our team to the point where it is right now.”
 
On Juan Luis Anangono’s high shot rate and hitting the woodwork twice Saturday night…
 
“The positive thing is that he’s creating opportunities. I think it’s going to come and as a forward you have to have a mentality that you want the next opportunity, regardless if you’re missing or not. Juan does so much work off the ball that he’s a threat every time we get the ball to be able to play in depth and he stretches the opposing team out. In the first half we could have done a better job with his movement and finding Mike [Magee] between the lines because there were big gaps between there and we didn’t find him enough. But he works so hard with the ball, without the ball – he’s creating opportunities and it’s going to come. I think he’s got that kind of mentality and as a forward you say ‘give me that next opportunity’. In a game it’s the next play. There’s nothing you can do to go back. He’s a positive guy, he created chances, he hit the post today, next week it’ll go in.”
 
On how closely he followed the New England/Columbus game…
 
“I looked at it. Believe me every time I went back – I saw 2-2 then I saw 3-2 – you look at that. At the end, it’s really up to us, so regardless of what they do, if we take care of business then we’re there and it’s a credit to everyone in this organization. You look at it, it’s hard not to but I think we just have to focus on ourselves – that’s the important thing. We put ourselves in the spot where it really is up to us.”
 
Jeff Larentowicz, Chicago Fire Midfielder
 
Thoughts on the team’s performance in the 1-0 win over Toronto FC…
 
“We gutted it out. I thought Toronto played tough and although we had a lot of chances they held on. We got a break on the PK and we win the game. At this point in the year we’re faced with the challenge of having to win games and we’re doing that.”
 
On the disappointment on receiving a yellow card and missing the regular season finale next Sunday at New York…
 
“It’s extremely disappointing. The guys will be alright. I have faith in everyone here and they know the task at hand – they’ll take care of business.”
 
On the team’s spirit after three straight wins allowing them to knock on the door of playoff qualification…
 
“There’s confidence but we need to keep it in check. We know we have to be smart and I think that’s what we’ve done the last few games – we’ve been a lot smarter than we have in the past in terms of finishing games out and getting the results that we need. Going into New York I’m sure there’s going to be a lot on the line for them and for us as well. It’ll be a tough game but one where I think we can get a result.”
 
Feelings on seeing Mike Magee convert the penalty kick after missing his take three weeks ago vs. Montreal…
 
“It felt great, that’s the game-winning goal. We’ve had confidence in Mike, we know he has confidence in himself and that’s what we expect out of him. He stepped up and I’m sure it was on his mind the last few games but to finish it the way he did shows the confidence he has.”
 
On if he thinks Mike Magee should be MLS MVP…
 
“Absolutely, there’s no question. The guy that scores the most goals in the league is someone that’s having a good year. I think an MVP has to be on the team that’s winning and competing for championships. He’s said all along that his goal is to get into the playoffs and whatever happens after that happens. We’re with him on that. We hope he continues to score goals and I think if we get into the playoffs he should get it.”
 
Patrick Nyarko, Chicago Fire Midfielder
 
On the push to the end of the season:
 
"The momentum is building and we need to keep our concentration focused to the last day and hopefully into the playoffs."
 
On the result:
 
"I thought we had control of the game.  We created chances and were hitting the post, but their threat was on the set pieces and in these kinds of games you can really not count the other team out even if you have control because one set piece and they can put you behind.  I think we had control of the game, created chances when we wanted to, but we just couldn't put the game away. it's good we got the one goal and we walked it out."
 
On the play of Juan Luis Anangono:
 
"There was great awareness [of his position], he made good runs and people put the ball right there for him.  It's unfortunate that you're going to get these kinds of games where you hit it well and it still comes off the post.  Hopefully when we really need it, it will go in."
 
On following the results of other teams in contention tonight:
 
"I took a peek a little bit up on the board, but it didn't really affect me.  Like I said, I want us to stay focused, coming down to the last day might be an advantage for us with the momentum that we are building now and trying to build going into the playoffs.
 
I'd look up at the scoreboard when we'd win corners or when walking back if it was on the scoreboard, I'd take a peek and say to myself, 'I hope next time it comes up that it changes.'  We have to focus on ourselves, we have control of our own destiny and we hope to clinch it next week."
 
On next week:
 
"It doesn't make a difference [that the other games are starting before the Fire], because the guys in the locker room are experienced enough to know that it's about us now.  We are not looking for the results to get us in.  We need to get our own result to get us in.  I think we have experienced guys we are not going to pay attention that and will stay focused on the game at hand, which is New York and will be a tough game." 
 
Mike Magee, Chicago Fire forward
 
On taking the penalty:
 
"All that was going through my head was, ‘don't miss.’  I got up there with all the confidence in the world, I was looking at the goal and it looked a little smaller than normal to be honest.  I was never going to miss that."
 
On his approach:
 
"I tried to take a little glance at the goalie, and the approach is that I had to score.  Like I said, the goal was a little smaller than normal.  Normally I get up there and don't think twice about missing, and this time the last one off the back of the post was on my mind, so I figured I couldn't hit it off the post if I shot it up the middle."
 
On the game next week:
 
"We've got to win it next week from the way I see it.  I'm not going to watch other scores or anything like that.  I'm going to keep in the back of my head that we have to go to New York and get a result.  Until someone tells me we're in the playoffs, otherwise the other games are meaningless and this is the biggest game of the year for our team."
 
On the fans chanting MVP:
 
"It's awesome.  I'm in my city, the city that I love and hearing them chant that with my family in the stands is huge.  Having said that, I know what's really at stake and it's not an MVP award or a Golden Boot Award, or any other award, it's about getting to the playoffs and knowing anything can happen from there.  It feels good, don't get me wrong, but to be honest it's the last thing on my mind."
 
Sean Johnson, Chicago Fire goalkeeper
 
On the defense's performance:
 
"I thought the guys in front of me did a fantastic job tonight.  They were organized, one the same page, communication was there and the most important thing is that we came away with three points and that's what we were looking to do tonight.  At the end of the day the clean sheet is a bonus, winning the game is the most important thing.  As long as we get three points and play well, we don't care what the score is, we'll take it and run with it.  We're trying to make the playoffs and shutouts, if they're not wins in some games, don't help get you into the playoffs. We need to keep doing out jobs, both offensively and defensively we've been on fire and need to keep that going into New York."
 
On losing Larentowicz for the game next week:
 
"We have players that can step at any point in time.  He's an important player to our team, but we've got the depth, like we've shown, to have players come in and contribute.  Everybody can come in and step-up and play their part to help get us into the playoffs.  It's about getting results, so we'll use practice this week to prepare for whomever is going to be in there, and we're going to be ok."
 
Toronto FC Head Coach Ryan Nelsen
 
On being encouraged the team has played almost 250 minutes without giving up a goal:
 
“Of course.  I feel so sorry for the players.  We’ve taken both these games, the Philadelphia and Chicago games as a playoff games since both these teams desperately needed points.  In both games they’ve been absolutely fantastic.  It’s been two set pieces that have broken them down.  And the chances we had in the first half, they were incredibly good chances.  But we have to finish.  We didn’t.  And then you leave it in the hands of the gods, or maybe not a god, but a refereeing decision that I think when he looks back at and sees it, he’ll probably say he’s made a bit of a mistake.  But unfortunately that’s long gone and I won’t be holding my breath to hear a sorry from that one.”
 
On being patient playing the game with Chicago’s playoff implications:
 
“We knew they needed to win, and we knew that if we were solid, we’d get into situations on the counter attack which we did in the first half.  But we knew we’d have our opportunities, and what we didn’t want to do was go down early.   Because that obviously gives them life and the pressure goes off them.  As soon as that goal went in, we had to go out of our shell a little bit and our formation and structure and they got a little life.  Before that goal, the crowd was getting uneasy, they’re uneasy.  It was a very comfortable situation, and then again, the referee’s left his fingerprint on the game.  Unfortunately, he couldn’t stay out of the news.  That’s life, and we move on.”
 
On Stefan Frei’s performance:
 
“That save that Stefan made would probably be for me, the save of the season.  I haven’t seen it again but just from watching it live, I can’t think of any save that I’ve seen.  He walks into 80 or 90 per cent of any MLS team and he’s the starting goalkeeper.  He walks into there and he starts.  That’s so lucky for us to have.  Unfortunately Joe’s been so good as well.  He’s been absolutely fantastic.  And he hasn’t had many games and then to come and put a performance like that is a credit to Stefan.”
 
Toronto FC Captain and Defender Steven Caldwell
 
On the match:
 
“Difficult match for us.  We felt we played pretty well.  We were in the game.  We had to defend for periods, but had the ball and created some opportunities.  Very disappointing with the penalty kick decision.  We felt that it was a very poor decision by the referee and it cost us a point, or possibly three.”
 
On the young midfield that got minutes today:
 
“Yea, the two guys in the middle were outstanding.  I felt that Reggie Lambe on the left and Kyle Bekker coming in and not having an opportunity all season and probably being frustrated with that, and comes into a big game and play so well, and in a role that is not his favored role.  He defended a lot and was breaking things up.  I am extremely proud of them, they were magnificent.”
 
On finishing off the season strong:
 
“We want to win, obviously, we have one game to go; against Montreal.  Sort of a derby match.  And they are obviously fighting for the playoffs too.  I think that anyone that’s been or seen the last two matches between Philadelphia and Fire, we are treating these games as being extremely important to us because we are building the team and hoping to be in this position next season.  We’re putting everything into them.  We’ve been extremely unlucky with two games and coming away with nothing.  We will be going out there next week, last home game, last game of the season and we’ll be trying to get the three points against our rivals.”
 
Toronto FC Goalkeeper Stefan Frei
 
On the team’s performance tonight:
 
“We put together a pretty decent performance and it’s extremely frustrating not to get a tie out of it at least.  There’s some positives to take from it.  We knew that this was going to be a tough atmosphere for us and it was a very important game for Chicago.  They want to bring everything and try to get into the playoffs.  So great, great learning experience for us.  I think we handled the first half extremely well and they had a couple of chances and lots of corner kicks throughout the game but we handled those set pieces well.  No chances came from them.  That one goal came from a set piece and but it was from the middle referee.  But like I said, lots of positives to take from this match.  We knew we were out of the playoff hunt a long time ago and it’s more about growing as a team.”
 
On next week’s final regular season match versus Montreal:
 
“Again, it will be the same atmosphere and they’re going to know what they need to do in order to get into the playoffs.  Obviously Toronto and Montreal don’t get along and we will try to play spoiler for sure.”
19 October 11:03 pm

Select shots from the Fire's 1-0 win over Toronto FC.

CREDIT: Brian Kersey, Chicago Fire

18 October 8:38 am

With two massive road victories under their belt, the Fire play the final regular season game of 2013 at Toyota Park against Toronto FC on Saturday night (LIVE 7pm CT on My50/Time Warner Sports Wisconsin).

With six goals scored in the last two matches, the Men in Red are hitting form at the right time and know if results go their way, they could be guaranteed an MLS Cup Playoff spot by the final whistle. Toronto have nothing to play for but will be looking to play spoiler. Here are some tactical things to look out for from a tactical perspective.

Keeping up the high pressure tactic – play a high line and get players into the TFC box

As I mentioned before, the Fire have scored six goals in the last two games. The closest to that tally in a previous two-game MLS span has been four goals. With that in mind, the Men in Red must try and get people into the box whenever possible against Toronto.

In many games this season, Toronto have not been undone by individual brilliance, but rather defensive errors. TFC coach Ryan Nelson, a former defender, must be disgusted by the amount of tap in goals his team has allowed with Sporting KC, Montreal and New York all scoring simple goals against Toronto and all stemming from defenders ball watching and not following their marks.

The Fire need to try and take advantage of this by getting more players from the midfield into the box to support assumed strikers Mike Magee and Juan Luis Anangono. The high pressure tactic can be very beneficial to this, with players like Alex not allowing the defenders to have time and space on the ball. With the team playing a high line and not dropping deep, it will give players an opportunity to get forward and into the box faster.

The Rios conundrum – who to start in the center of midfield?

Arevalo Rios played two grueling matches for Uruguay over the past week, helping La Celeste qualify for the World Cup intercontinental playoff against Jordan.  

After playing 180 minutes for his country and only returning to Chicago on Thursday, it might be difficult for him to start in the middle for the Fire on Saturday night.

WATCH:  Magee, Berry talk Toronto FC

One reason that the coaching staff might decide to start Rios however is that Jeff Larentowicz is currently sitting on four yellow cards and one more against TFC would rule him out of the season finale at New York next Sunday.

Another option for the Men in Red could be to start Larentowicz and bring on Rios for the former New England man if the Fire are in a comfortable position.

That being said, as we have seen from the past two games, the high pressure tactic is effective regardless of who starts in the middle. 

Muzzling Bobby Convey – a danger on both wings

Bobby Convey is one of the few players to have a strong year for TFC and the Fire must not allow him to create chances for target striker Bright Dike. Convey is equally comfortable playing on either wing and it wouldn’t surprise me if he started on the right where he would link up with improving right back Mark Bloom.

While Bakary Soumare has found form again in the last few matches after having a few horror moments previously, Gonzalo Segares is a player that will be looking to have a better performance against TFC.

In 1v1 situations, Sega is very difficult to beat but the problems start when players make runs in behind him. The Costa Rican can sometimes be caught too high up the field while other times he is forced to move inside to cover for one of the center backs. Both of these were highlighted in last weekend’s match against Dallas.

Against Toronto, I would also like to see the Fire’s outside midfielder track back and help out Segares more, especially if Bloom gets forward. A composed and compact performance by the Fire’s back four as a unit will give the team a very good chance of coming out of the game with three points and maybe even a guaranteed playoff spot.

Prediction: After having to endure a nervy end to last week’s match, the Fire make it easier on fans by winning 2-0 with goals from Alex and Mike Magee.

13 October 2:22 pm

Bet you didn't see that title coming two weeks ago did you? 

While much of MLS sat idle this weekend, teams in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race nearly played a full slate with perhaps the Fire coming away as the biggest winners from the weekend’s results.

A look at where the race stands heading into the final two weeks of the season...

x - 1) New York Red Bulls 
Current Points: 53 (15-9-8)
Games Remaining: 2 (1 home / 1 away)
Last 5 Games: DDWWW (11pts)
2013 Home/Away Record: 10-2-4 / 5-7-4
Maximum Possible Pts: 59
Average Opponents Pts: 47.0
Remaining Schedule: 10/20 @ HOU, 10/27 vs. CHI

Rundown: New York sat idle this weekend, letting the rest of the Eastern Conference catch up to them on games played. Already qualified for the playoffs, Red Bull will be watching the Cascadia clash between Seattle and Portland closely Sunday night as it will have significant implications on the Supporters Shield race.

Red Bull will certainly be in the mix for their first true silverware the last two weeks of the season but with so many teams still in contention for the hardware, Fire fans shouldn’t expect New York to put out a weaker lineup on the last day of the season.

A win this week vs. Houston would at the very least lock up a top two finish in the East for New York while a loss would make things very interesting…

x - 2) Sporting KC
Current Points: 52 (15-10-7)
Games Remaining: 2 (1 home / 1 away)
Last 5: DWLWW (10pts)
2013 Home/Away Record: 8-5-3 / 7-5-4
Maximum Possible Pts: 58
Average Opponents Pts: 31
Remaining Schedule: 10/18 vs. D.C., 10/23 vs. OLI**, 10/26 @ PHI

Rundown: Sporting KC could have controlled their own destiny for the top spot in the East if they would have won out but Wednesday’s draw at Houston means they’ve relinquished that opportunity to New York.

Still, Sporting welcomes D.C. United this weekend and will no doubt be in the equation for both that top spot and potentially the Supporters Shield race on the final day of the season.

By virtue of the draw between Philadelphia and D.C. United Saturday, they also locked down a playoff berth. A win Saturday vs. D.C. and Sporting will lock in a top two finish in the East.

3) Houston Dynamo
Current Points: 48 (13-10-9)
Games Remaining: 1 (1 home / 1 away)
Last 5 Games: DWWWL (10pts)
2013 Home/Away Record: 9-3-4 / 4-6-4
Maximum Possible Points: 56
Average Opponents Pts: 34.5
Remaining Schedule: 10/20 vs. NY, 10/24 @ AU**, 10/27 @ D.C.

Rundown: The midweek draw vs. Sporting KC cooled off the Dynamo’s hot streak just a bit, leaving them exposed to a potential drop in the standings at the weekend. Fortunately for Houston, Montreal fell to New England and the Dynamo are still in with a small chance for a top of the East finish.

With three games in eight days to end the season, the Dynamo have a huge week ahead of them beginning Saturday vs. New York.

How the qualify this week: A win over New York combined with a Philadelphia loss or draw to Montreal or a win over New York combined with a Philadelphia draw/win and a Chicago loss or draw to Toronto FC.

4) Montreal Impact
Current Points: 46 (13-11-7)
Games Remaining: 3 (1 home/ 2 away)
Last 5 Games: LLDLL (1pts)
2013 Home/Away Record: 9-4-3 / 4-7-4
Maximum Possible Pts: 56
Average Opponents Pts: 39
Remaining Schedule: 10/16 @ LA, 10/19 vs. PHI, 10/26 @ TFC

Rundown: Oh how the mighty have fallen. Long holders of the Eastern Conference top spot the first half of the season, Montreal are now winless in their last five following Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to New England.

Montreal still hold a game in hand over the rest of the East but make that up with a tough midweek match Wednesday at LA. In that game the Impact will be down two starters in Matteo Ferrari and Davy Arnaud due to yellow card accumulation while Landon Donovan returns to the Galaxy from U.S. Men’s National Team duty.

A loss in that match and Montreal will officially be in the dog fight for one of the knockout playoff spots and will have to recover quickly as they’ll host fellow contender Philadelphia three days later.

How they qualify this week: Two wins vs. LA and Philadelphia is the simplest way but a combined four points with the win coming against Philadelphia along with either a New England loss/draw to Columbus or a Fire loss to Toronto FC.

5) Chicago Fire
Current Points: 46 (13-12-7)
Games Remaining: 2 (1 home / 1 away)
Last 5 Games: WWDLW (10pts)
2013 Home / Away Record: 9-4-3 / 4-7-4
Maximum Possible Pts: 52
Average Opponents Pts: 39.5
Remaining Schedule: 10/19 vs. TFC, 10/27 @ NY

Rundown: Following the disappointing 2-2 draw to Montreal on September 28, naysayers said the Fire should give up on the season and “play the kids” with only home game remaining out of their final four.

Two weeks later, they've won two straight MLS games for the first time since early July and both of them came on the road. Naysayers…

Now above the red line and tied on points with Montreal (and Philadelphia), the Fire are actually in a position where they could clinch a playoff berth this weekend and still have the possibility to finish in the East’s top three spots, something that would have been unthinkable back in mid-May.

With two games left, the Fire control their own playoff destiny and after two confidence boosting victories, have a very winnable game in Saturday's home finale vs. Toronto FC. 

How they qualify this week: A Chicago win over Toronto FC combined with a Philadelphia loss vs. Montreal and a New England loss or draw vs. Columbus.  

With the Chicago and Philadelphia even on points, how would this work you ask? If the Fire won and Union lost, couldn’t they still catch the Fire on points? Yes, but they would only tie Chicago and the Fire would already have a two-game edge in the first tie breaker which is total wins.

With both Montreal/Philadelphia and New England/Columbus ending before the Fire/TFC game, Saturday could be a very special night at Toyota Park. Get your tickets!

6) Philadelphia Union
Current Points: 46 (12-10-10)
Games Remaining: 2 (1 home  / 1 away)
Last 5 Games: DWWLL (7pts)
2013 Home/Away Record: 7-4-5 / 5-6-5
Maximum Possible Points: 52
Average Opponents Pts: 49
Remaining Schedule: 10/19 @ MTL, 10/26 vs. SKC

Rundown: For two weeks in a row, Philadelphia have needed a very late goal to stay in the hunt for a playoff spot. On Saturday though Jack McInerney’s strike was only good enough to equalize with lowly D.C. United, meaning the Union missed out on a huge opportunity to gain crucial points ahead of what will be two tough matches at Montreal and vs. Sporting KC to end the season.

How they qualify this week: Even if Philadelphia beats Montreal (and the Impact have lost to LA at midweek) and the Fire and Revolution both lose to Toronto and Columbus respectively, Philly would still need to get a point in the final week against Sporting KC.

7) New England Revolution
Current Points: 45 (12-11-9)
Games Remaining: 2 (1 home / 1 away)
Last 5 Games: WDDWL (8pts)
2013 Home/Away Record: 7-5-4 / 5-7-4
Maximum Possible Points: 51
Average Opponents Pts: 41
Remaining Schedule: 10/19 vs. CLB, 10/27 @ CLB

Rundown: New England bounced back well from a disappointing 2-2 draw last week at New York, earning a valuable 1-0 away win in Montreal but still find themselves in a difficult spot after the Fire win in Dallas and Philly’s last gasp draw in D.C.

An odd home-and-home series with Columbus (who are now all but out of the playoff race) will help determine their playoff fate but even if they win both matches to close the season, they’ll need help in the form of two teams above them dropping points. With Montreal, Chicago and Philadelphia all just one point ahead and the Impact and Union facing each other this week, New England still has plenty to play for.

8) Columbus Crew
Current Points: 41 (12-15-5)
Games Remaining: 2 (1 home / 1 away)
Last 5 Games: LWWWL (9pts)
2013 Home / Away Record: 7-6-3 / 5-9-2
Maximum Possible Points: 47
Average Opponents Pts: 42
Remaining Schedule: 10/19 @ NE, 10/27 vs. NE

Rundown: The Revolution and Fire wins as well as the Union draw pretty much put to bed the Crew’s hopes for the postseason. It’s not that they’re mathematically out, it’s just that it’s damn near improbable that all the results that would need to go Columbus’ way would.

It’s not even worth getting into with two weeks left but if they can play a little spoiler and win at New England this weekend and are still in the hunt on the final day, I’ll explain it next week. 

07 October 8:34 am

The Fire and a few other results went their way this weekend. Still, the Men in Red remain just below the red line, two points back of the final playoff spot in the East with three matches left to play.

A breakdown of the weekend and what it means for the current Eastern Conference playoff picture…

x - 1) New York Red Bulls
Current Points: 53 (15-9-8)
Games Remaining: 2 (1 home / 1 away)
Last 5 Games: DDWWW (11pts)
2013 Home/Away Record: 10-2-4 / 5-7-4
Maximum Possible Pts: 59
Average Opponents Pts: 45.0
Remaining Schedule: 10/20 @ HOU, 10/27 vs. CHI

Rundown: New York held a long lead, controversy ensued, New England went up 2-1 late only to see Tim Cahill bag an incredible header to see Red Bull walk away with a 2-2 draw and eventually become the first team in MLS to clinch a playoff berth.

Still, the game will feel like a missed opportunity at home for a team still hoping to win the Supporters Shield and lock down the Eastern Conference top seed. The result is disappointing from a Fire perspective for two reasons: 1) It gives New England an extra point and 2) It almost assuredly makes Red Bull’s home game vs. the Fire on October 27 all the more meaningful.

New York will take a break off this week before visiting high-flying Houston on October 20.

2) Sporting KC
Current Points: 51 (15-10-6)
Games Remaining: 3 (1 home / 2 away)
Last 5: WLWWW (9pts)
2013 Home/Away Record: 8-5-3 / 7-5-3
Maximum Possible Pts: 60
Average Opponents Pts: 35.6
Remaining Schedule: 10/9 at HOU, 10/18 vs. D.C., 10/23 vs. OLI**, 10/26 @ PHI

Rundown: Sporting KC did exactly what they needed to do, getting a well-earned 1-0 victory at Columbus Saturday night. The result means Sporting has earned just three points less on the road than they have at home this season – a somewhat incredible away record in MLS terms.

KC controls their own destiny for Eastern Conference top spot but faces a very tough test Wednesday vs. a Dynamo side that jumped up to third this weekend. A Sporting win in that match automatically puts them into the playoffs but they can also make it with a combination draw and Fire draw or loss would also do the trick.

3) Houston Dynamo
Current Points: 47 (13-10-8)
Games Remaining: 3 (2 home / 1 away)
Last 5 Games: WWWLD (10pts)
2013 Home/Away Record: 9-3-3 / 4-6-4
Maximum Possible Points: 58
Average Opponents Pts: 39.7
Remaining Schedule: 10/9 vs. SKC, 10/20 vs. NY, 10/24 @ AU**, 10/27 @ D.C.

Rundown: Houston continued their climb up the table with their third straight win Friday vs. Montreal. Things looked bleak for the Dynamo in early September but the side now seems destined to once again reach the playoffs and with back-to-back matches vs. Sporting KC and New York, their ascent might not stop at third place.

All we can say is, typical Houston Dynamo…

4) Montreal Impact
Current Points: 46 (13-10-7)
Games Remaining: 4 (2 home/ 2 away)
Last 5 Games: LDLLW (4pts)
2013 Home/Away Record: 9-3-3 / 4-7-4
Maximum Possible Pts: 58
Average Opponents Pts: 39.5
Remaining Schedule: 10/12 vs. NE, 10/16 @ LA, 10/19 vs. PHI, 10/26 @ TFC

Rundown: Montreal fell again 1-0 at Houston Friday night, moving the side that spent much of the regular season at the top of the East all the way down to fourth place. The Impact still hold a game in hand on everyone and both of their remaining home matches are six-pointers against New England (this week) and Philadelphia (October 19). If they can recover from their down form and win those games, they should still be in the playoffs.

5) Philadelphia Union
Current Points: 45 (12-10-9)
Games Remaining: 3 (1 home  / 2 away)
Last 5 Games: WWLLD (7pts)
2013 Home/Away Record: 7-4-5 / 5-6-4
Maximum Possible Points: 54
Average Opponents Pts: 37.3
Remaining Schedule: 10/12 @ D.C., 10/19 @ MTL, 10/26 vs. SKC

Rundown: There was a point Saturday night in which it looked like all three Eastern Conference games would go the Fire’s way, then Kleberson’s 96th minute free kick happened, giving Philadelphia a crucial 1-0 home win over Toronto FC.

With that win, the Union stayed above the red line, two points ahead of the Fire with three matches remaining. Philly will look to take advantage of Saturday’s game at lowly D.C. before having to close with tough matches at Montreal and vs. Sporting KC.

6) Chicago Fire
Current Points: 43 (12-12-7)
Games Remaining: 3 (1 home / 2 away)
Last 5 Games: WDLWD (7pts)
2013 Home / Away Record: 9-4-3 / 3-7-4
Maximum Possible Pts: 52
Average Opponents Pts: 40
Remaining Schedule: 10/12 @ FCD, 10/19 vs. TFC, 10/27 @ NY

Rundown: The Fire did the business with a 3-0 win at D.C. on Friday night and if not for Kleberson’s late free kick in Philly, would have sat in fifth place to end the weekend.

The Fire visit FC Dallas who kept their quite slim Western Conference playoff hopes alive with a 1-1 draw vs. Real Salt Lake Saturday. With the Galaxy destroying Chivas USA and even Vancouver picking up a point vs. Portland Sunday, it doesn’t look good for Dallas, who are seven points out of the final playoff spot with three games to go, meaning a loss Saturday would officially be there end of the season.

On the other hand, the Fire are 3-12-2 all-time in Dallas and will go for their second straight away win on Saturday – a feat the team has achieved just once in the past four seasons. A win in Frisco will put the Fire in prime position with a home match vs. Toronto looming.

7) New England Revolution
Current Points: 42 (11-11-9)
Games Remaining: 3 (1 home / 2 away)
Last 5 Games: DDWLL (5pts)
2013 Home/Away Record: 7-5-4 / 4-7-4
Maximum Possible Points: 51
Average Opponents Pts: 42.6
Remaining Schedule: 10/12 @ MTL, 10/19 vs. CLB, 10/27 @ CLB

Rundown: New England were no doubt the biggest losers from this weekend’s results, scoring two goals to go up 2-1 late only to have Cahill’s 96th minute header serve as a huge gut punch. A visit to Montreal, who are also coming off a loss at Houston, looms quite large and defeat in Quebec could do serious damage to the Revs’ playoff hopes.

Still, the home-and-home vs. Columbus to close the season will keep things interesting for the Revolution and at the very least, likely keep them in the mix until the final weekend.

8) Columbus Crew
Current Points: 41 (12-15-5)
Games Remaining: 2 (1 home / 1 away)
Last 5 Games: LWWWL (9pts)
2013 Home / Away Record: 7-6-3 / 5-9-2
Maximum Possible Points: 47
Average Opponents Pts: 42
Remaining Schedule: 10/19 @ NE, 10/27 vs. NE

Rundown: As great as the Crew’s run under interim head man Brian Bliss was, all it would take was another loss to deal a horrible blow to their playoff hopes. The Crew will now take their bye week but they need to win their remaining two matches and hope for major help around the East in order to make the playoffs.

There’s still a chance but it’s just not very good.