Crunch time

Fire need win Wednesday vs. Toronto


The Basics

Chicago Fire (6-7-7, fifth in Eastern Conference) vs. Toronto FC (7-9-6, third in East) at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill.

All-time record: Series tied 3-3-2

TV Info:

8:30 p.m. ET, MLS Direct Kick, MatchDay Live; My50 (Chicago), RSN (Toronto)

Game Intro

Wednesday’s match is an absolutely crucial one for both teams. Both Chicago and Toronto find themselves on the outside of the playoff picture looking in – and both need a win to keep their postseason hopes alive.

The match will be the second time the teams face off this season. Toronto won the first meeting, dismantling the Fire 4-1 in rainy conditions on May 8 at BMO Field.

WATCH: Ljungberg, De Rosario and others preview key Eastern tilt

Chicago Fire

The Fire come into Wednesday’s game looking to regroup after a string of disappointing results. Latest in their series of poor outcomes was last Saturday’s 1-1 tie with LA – highlighted by Omar Gonzalez’s 91st-minute equalizer.

The 11th-place Fire – seven points behind eighth place Seattle – need to bounce back with a win against TFC, or they run the risk of falling out of the playoff race completely. Chicago keep dropping points through conceding late goals – something they’ll need to change, and soon.

They'll be boosted by the return of Swedish DP Freddie Ljunbgerg, who missed the LA match due to a yellow-card suspension. The former Sounder has worked wonders in the Fire attack since he was acquired on July 30 and will look to continue to do so against Toronto.

“We need points and we need wins,” Fire defender C.J. Brown told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. “One point’s not good enough for us. We’re at home, so we need three.”

Toronto FC

TFC head into the match not much better off than Chicago. The 10th-place Reds are two points ahead of the Fire – and five behind Seattle for that final playoff spot – but have already played two more matches than Chicago.

They’ll need to bounce back from last week’s 1-0 loss at FC Dallas with a win at Toyota Park, or they run the risk of permanently falling out of the postseason picture. Preki and his players keep talking about "the ball not bouncing their way" – while they certainly haven't gotten a lot of breaks, they need to put together an authoritative performance quickly.

Preki's team will, however, have the added bonus of Dwayne De RosarioJulian de Guzman and Nana Attakora returning to the squad after Canadian National Team coach Stephen Hart excused the trio following Canada's loss to Peru in Toronto last Saturday.

"We're in good shape," De Rosario said. "The main thing is just to stay positive, stay focused and keep encouraging each other."

Heroes & Villains

Freddie Ljungberg vs. Julian de Guzman – He has only played five matches in a Fire uniform, but Ljungberg has already established himself as the team’s key attacker. The Designated Player effectively runs the offense from his position as a supporting striker, distributing effectively and dribbling dangerously at defenses across the league.

Toronto defensive midfielder – and fellow DP – de Guzman will be charged with stopping him. He’ll need to play tight, physical defense against the excitable Swede if Toronto are to slow the Chicago attack down.

Stat that makes you go “Hmm”

Toronto have never won at Toyota Park, going 0-1-2 in Bridgeview.