|Matchup||Chicago Fire (7-16-10, 31 pts.) vs. Toronto FC (13-9-11, 50 pts.)|
|Date||Sunday, October 23 • 3:00 p.m. CT|
|Location||Toronto, Ontario, CA. • BMO Field|
|TV||CSN Chicago (Pregame Coverage: 1:30 p.m. CT)|
|Radio (Spanish)||97.5 FM Poder|
In what will be their final match of the 2016 season, the Chicago Fire are looking to claim three points from their tilt with Toronto FC on Sunday afternoon at BMO Field. Match coverage begins at 3:00 p.m. CT on CSN Chicago, with kickoff to follow at 3:20 p.m as part of MLS Decision Day. The Fire will be looking to disrupt Toronto's shot at a first-round playoff bye and end their campaign with a positive note to build on heading into 2017. With that in mind here are five factors that could influence the result of Sunday's matchup in Canada:
The Chicago Fire will have their sights set on altering another team’s playoff outlook come kickoff on Sunday afternoon. Their last two results – a 2-2 draw with Columbus and a 2-1 victory over New England – extinguished the postseason aspirations of both opponents, who needed wins over Veljko Paunovic’s men to stay alive in the chase. Toronto FC has already secured their spot in the 2016 MLS Playoffs, but stand just outside a coveted top-two spot in the Eastern Conference standings and the knockout round bye that comes with it. TFC sit one point behind second-place New York City FC, and will need to couple a win and City loss or draw against Columbus on Sunday if they’re to leapfrog into a first-round bye. The Fire – just as they have the last two matches – will be standing in their way.
David Accam’s return from international duty in last Sunday’s 2-1 win over New England was an explosive one. The 26-year-old Ghanaian picked up an assist on the game’s opening goal from Michael de Leeuw and finished things off himself with an MLS Goal of the Week nominee strike in the 80th minute. Accam now sits one goal shy of his 2015 season haul of 10. A goal on Sunday in Toronto would make him the first Fire player to score double-digit MLS goals in back-to-back seasons since Damani Ralph accomplished that feat in 2003 and 2004.
Paunovic’s available selections in attack took a hit last Sunday when forward Luis Solignac was shown a red card in the 54th minute against New England. Solignac will be unable to participate in Toronto as a result, opening a door for players like John Goossens and David Arshakyan – both substitutions last weekend – to be included among the starting XI. On a conference call held Wednesday afternoon, Paunovic had this to say about Arshakyan’s development since arriving in Chicago in August.
“He’s adjusting well,” Paunovic said. “I think for sure the preseason and everything that is ahead will be helpful for him. But also we have this one more game left which may be another opportunity for him to adjust to the league, to get experience, and to perform well."
The Toronto defense has been one of the league’s best over the course of the 2016 season, having allowed just 37 total goals heading into the final weekend. That number is bested only by the 31 surrendered by Colorado. With four draws and a loss in the team’s last five outings, keeping Chicago out of the back of the net will be an emphasis come kickoff.
The reigning MLS MVP is back, and containing him will certainly be an emphasis for the Fire defensive unit. Sebastian Giovinco made his return to the Toronto lineup on Sunday in his team’s 2-2 draw with Montreal, registered nine shots and promptly assisted on the game’s equalizing goal in 86th minute. The Italian international had missed five matches with adductor and quad injuries, but rejoins his squad ahead just in time for the playoffs. Despite his time away, Giovinco still leads the league in combined goals and assists with 30 to his credit this season, and figures to be in the conversation to win a second consecutive league MVP award.
Toronto has added 2016 two wins to their column in this series’ all-time matchup, but the Fire still lead with an overall record of 9-6-8 against their Canadian counterparts since their inception in 2007. Things even out in matches played in Toronto, with TFC owning a 5-4-3 record over the Fire at home.