Chicago should have won on Wednesday night, but they absolutely bottled it. Up 2-0 at home against D.C. United, it seemed like they were set to pick up all three points despite not playing too well. However, a late collapse meant that they conceded twice in the span of five minutes, and that they had to settle for a draw. It was the story of the season for the Fire, who left their fans disappointed once again.
Things have been better for Toronto, as they have rebounded well from a woeful start to the campaign. They’ve been much improved ever since firing head coach Chris Armas, going unbeaten in their last three games, including a 3-2 win over the league leading New England Revolution. They’re in decent form, and they’ll like their chances of keeping the good times rolling this weekend.
Chicago will be without Kenneth Kronholm and Carlos Terán through injury, while Francisco Calvo is out on international duty.
Things are a bit worse for Toronto, as the likes of Eriq Zavaleta, Ayo Akinola, Jonathan Osorio, Richie Laryea, Kemar Lawrence are all at the Gold Cup with their respective nations, while Quentin Westbergand and Ifunanyachi Achara are both injured.
Chicago Fire: Shuttleworth, Kappelhof, Pineda, Bornstein, Sekulić, Frankowski, Medrán, Giménez, Navarro, Aliseda, Berić
Toronto FC: Bono, Auro, Gonzalez, Mavinga, Morrow, Bradley, Delgado, Endo, Pozuelo, Soteldo, Altidore
Ones to watch
The fact that Chicago’s best player this season has arguably been their goalkeeper says a lot about how the team has been playing.
Bobby Shuttleworth, in simple terms, has been immense. He’s come up big for the Fire time and time again, and he’s been the one keeping them in certain contests. If it weren’t for him, who knows how many more goals the defense would have conceded by this stage of the campaign.
What’s especially impressive is that the American has really only been at fault for one goal this year, with that coming against Atlanta United on the road. He used to be error-prone in the past, whether it be for Chicago or other MLS teams, but he’s since become a much more reliable presence in net.
He was elite once again in the last game against D.C. United, making a number of crucial saves throughout the contest. He would have kept a clean sheet too if not for some woeful defending from his teammates, who let him down at the end of the day.
Up against talented opposition, there’s reason to believe Shuttleworth will have to be in top form once again, as he might face a barrage of shots. Luckily for the Fire, he seems up for the challenge.
It’s somewhat surprising to see Jozy Altidore still with Toronto considering what happened earlier in the season.
He was seemingly forced out of the team by former head coach Chris Armas, as he had to train on his own while being kept far away from the starting lineup. The relationship between the two was quite toxic, and it was becoming clear that the situation had become out of hand. One of them had to go for the sake of the other, and as a result, Armas was fired.
Altidore then returned to the squad after the coach’s departure, but he’s had to settle for cameos off the bench since then. He did score in his first game back, though, powering a header home against Orlando City. He was kept at bay in his most recent appearance versus the New York Red Bulls, but he was able to get some more minutes in at least.
Now, there’s a good chance he’ll finally be brought back into the starting lineup. Everyone knows just how good the forward can be when he’s healthy, even if he’s lost a bit of pace since he’s 31-years old. What’s important is that he knows how to be at the right place at the right time, and he’s got the ability to both set up teammates and go for goal himself when the ball comes his way.
The Fire will have to keep an eye on Altidore at all times, as one moment of carelessness could lead to him finding the back of the net.
Last time out
These two sides did not face off last season, with the latest meeting between them coming near the end of 2019.
Taking place at Seatgeek Stadium, the former home of Chicago, both teams created chances in the first half, but neither was able to convert despite coming close on several occasions.
The deadlock would finally be broken near the hour mark, and it was Toronto who opened the scoring. Coming courtesy of some wonderful work from Jozy Altidore, he managed to get in between the two centerbacks before turning and slotting the ball through the legs of the onrushing goalkeeper.
The Fire responded well to going behind, though, equalizing just nine minutes later. A superb pass from Przemysław Frankowski picked out Aleksandar Katai on the counter, and he then did the rest, dragging the ball one way before hitting a shot the other way and into the back of the net.
Chicago made the most of their newfound momentum, taking the lead with about 15 minutes to go. A corner was taken short to Nicolás Gaitán, who whipped in a superb cross into the penalty area towards Fabian Herbers. He got on the end of it, redirecting a header past everyone and in to put his side in front.
However, the advantage did not last long, as Toronto FC tied things up after a few moments when Omar Gonzalez headed home a corner. They had a late chance to find a winner, but a shot from Patrick Mullins went just wide of the target.
As a result, both sides ultimately had to settle for a draw.
How to watch
The match will kick off at 7:00 p.m. CST, and it will air on WGN TV and chicagofirefc.com for fans in Chicago and on TSN1 and the TSN app for fans in Toronto. Those in the United States who aren’t in the Chicagoland area will be able to watch the action unfold on ESPN+.