Buoyed the marquee acquisitions of Designated Players Bastian Schweinsteiger and Nemanja Nikolic, the Fire have won two straight, including a 3-0 shellacking of New England last week, to rise to third place in the East – four points ahead of ninth-place Toronto FC.
Chicago head coach Veljko Paunovic said after last week's match he's not surprised by the star duo's immediate impact, adding that he believes that "the pieces are coming together" for a club that finished in last place in each of the last two seasons.
"We saw guys who are ready to come and win, guys who are givers, and guys who just know how to compete and win," Paunovic said.
Toronto, of course, still might boast the league's best collection in stars in Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco. But they've yet to kick their season into high gear, tying four of their six matches and dropping a 2-1 decision to Columbus last week.
That the Fire's big-money men – Schweinsteiger, Nikolic and David Accam – are performing well is expected. But equally important in the Fire's early rise to third place in the East has been the play of the rest of the team. In a recent win against Columbus, it was Dax McCarty. Most recently, it was Luis Solignac, who turned in a sparkling performance from the start. According to the Argentine, it was a long time coming for both him and the team.
"I think it's a dream game," Solignac said of the team's performance against New England. "Those games, sometimes you watch on TV and say, 'When am I going to have a game like this?' Dominating, having all the time the ball, possession. I feel really proud."
It will be a significantly harder task in Toronto as opposed to at home against a 10-man Revolution side, but the Fire will be heading north with all the confidence in the world.
- Suspended: NONE
- Int’l Duty: NONE
- Injury Report: OUT: M - John Goossens (right ankle surgery); QUESTIONABLE: F - Luis Solignac (left knee injury); M - David Accam (right hip pain), M - Matt Polster (right knee strain)
Projected Starting XI (4-3-3): GK: Jorge Bava - Michael Harrington, Johan Kappelhof, Joao Meira, Brandon Vincent - Juninho, Dax McCarty, Bastian Schweinsteiger - Luis Solignac, Nemanja Nikolic, David Accam
Notes: Chicago has lost six of their last seven MLS road games (1D) and have been outscored 22-6 during that stretch. ... Chicago players have been given four yellow cards so far this year, the fewest of any team in the league.
The defensive outlook is rough for the Reds. Already missing starting goalkeeper Clint Irwin, they will also miss their defensive leader in Drew Moor due to an irregular heartbeat. Though both team and player have indicated that Moor will be making a return to the field sooner rather than later, he is almost certainly a scratch for Friday, given that he won't train until he sees a cardiologist late this week.
In Moor's place, head coach Greg Vanney will likely turn back to offseason acquisition Chris Mavinga, who was the subject of some criticism from Vanney after a rough outing against Atlanta on April 9. Veteran defender Jason Hernandez is another option for Vanney in Moor's absence.
- Suspended: None
- Int'l Duty: None
- Injury Report: OUT – GK Clint Irwin (hamstring strain), D Drew Moor (cardiac arrhythmia), D Ashtone Morgan (stress fracture in foot)
Projected Starting XI (3-5-2): Alex Bono – Eriq Zavaleta, Nick Hagglund, Chris Mavinga – Steven Beitashour, Victor Vazquez, Michael Bradley, Armando Cooper, Justin Morrow – Jozy Altidore, Sebastian Giovinco
Notes: Toronto only has one win in their last eight regular season home games (2L-5D). They have conceded multiple goals in three of their last four regular season games at home, as well. ... Victor Vazquez had eight key passes in 86 minutes against Columbus last week, including the assist on Altidore’s goal. No MLS player has had more key passes in a single game so far this year.
Chicago leads the overall series by a narrow margin but Toronto FC is unbeaten in its last five home matches vs. the Fire, including three consecutive wins.
- Overall: Toronto 7 wins (36 goals) … Chicago 9 wins (39 goals) … Ties 8
- At TOR: Toronto 6 wins (25 goals) … Chicago 4 wins (23 goals) … Ties 3
Referee: Silviu Petrescu
Assistant Referees: Oscar Mitchell-Carvalho, Peter Manikowski
Fourth Official: Caleb Mendez