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Toronto FC v Chicago Fire. Good times guaranteed.

Good times for the Chad.
Good times for the Chad.

May 12th 2007.  Toronto FC 3:1 Chicago Fire.  First win, first goal, first red card, a legend is born. 

October 18th 2008.  Toronto 3:2 Chicago.  Last home game of the season, Ricketts scores twice for the first home win in over 4 months. 

May 16th 2009 Toronto 0:2 Chicago.  Move along, nothing to see here. 

May 8th 2010 Toronto 4:1 Chicago.  Labrocca's wind assisted goal, Chad Barrett scores twice, more remarkably O'Brian White scores!

At the risk of jinxing it, history suggests that when Chicago come to town, there's a good chance of something momentous happening.  Can it happen again?  Sure, why not? Chicago are one of the few teams that are doing worse than TFC so far, so this is one of the games TFC should really be looking at as 3 points for the taking.

Of course, the really important game is coming up this Wednesday in Vancouver with the first leg of the Voyageur's Cup final, and fatigue is probably playing it's part by now as the brutal Saturday/Wednesday/Saturday schedule just keeps on going, so that may effect the lineup Aron Winter puts out.  I'll take a futile stab at guessing what the starting XI might be, as well as what we might expect from Chicago after the jump.

Chicago have so far been worse than TFC, with only one win and 7 points to their name so far, and at the time of writing are struggling to find flights out of Chicago to Toronto, which will hopefully disrupt their preparations, though it's only a short flight and the game's not until 7pm tomorrow, so it shouldn't have too much effect. Chicago have been playing a 4-1-4-1 formation, with Uruguayan Diego Chaves up front, a skillful striker with 4 goals to his name already (and only $45,000!).  Guatemalan international Marco Pappa is their other big goal threat, playing a more physical and direct style from midfield.  If they were reversed I'd say they were a great match up for Cann/Williams and De Guzman, but Chaves could cause problems for the bigger defenders. 

I'd say the best option we have to deal with that sort of striker is Nana Attakora, but he's the pawn in TFC's latest bit of contract related drama, and seems to be out of the picture so Cann and Williams will probably have to do their best.  I think we'll see the exact same defensive line up as against Dallas, the need to build stability through continuity trumping fatigue concerns.  I was surprised to see Danleigh Borman start against Dallas, but he seems to be a favourite of Winter's, so I think he'll start ahead of Mikael Yourassowsky at Left Back, with Richard Eckersley again at Right Back.  Julian de Guzman should continue as the 'point back' Defensive Midfielder as well after a couple of good performances there.  If he can keep Pappa quiet, that will go a long way to getting TFC the win.

It's up front that we could well see changes, for tactical or fatigue related reasons.  Alen Stevanovic has looked about the same in the Centre Forward position as he did at Left Wing, talented, but not really fitting in to the team and making anything happen.  He still has a tendency to hold on to the ball too long and try to do too much, which almost inevitably leads to him losing the ball.  I had high hopes when he was signed, but it just hasn't worked out so far and as one of the highest paid players on the team, he can definitely be considered a disappointment so far.

It's been confirmed that Alan Gordon won't be fit to start, so I'd like to see Maicon Santos get the start up front to replace Stevanovic. He's come on as a sub in the last two games, and while he didn't do much against Dallas, the chemistry with Joao Plata that he showed against Houston last week is a good reason to give him a chance to stake a claim to that position before the return of Gordon.  Given the energy momentum and feel good factor he's brought recently, I'd be stunned to see Plata not starting, but Right Wing is more of a toss up.  Neither Nick Soolsma or Javier Martina impressed there against Dallas, but I'll guess at Soolsma keeping his place based on his strong play against Houston. 

They'll all be trying to score against former TFCplayer Jon Conway who's now with the fire, but really I only mention that as an excuse to reminisce about his last moment for TFC, scuffling with Columbus' Steven Lenhart before saltuing the crowd as he walked off after his red card.

In midfield, Tony Tchani and Jacob Peterson seem like regular starters, but given Peterson's been playing all the games so far, and hasn't looked as good recently, I think we could see him rested, with Matt Gold making his first MLS start after some recent sub appearances.

So all in all, I'll guess we'll look something like this (my current record at these predictions?  0 for the season so far, so you know, don't hold me to it.).

football formations

Prediction time, it looks like it's going to be another rainy game at BMO, and that worked for us last year against Chicago.  When TFC had flight trouble getting into Seattle, we ended up losing 3-0, so there's another historical precedent to go with all the matches I mentioned at the start of the article. All of them of course mean nothing for tomorrow's game, but when put together with Chicago's rough start, they fill me with confidence, and I'll say a 3-1 win.  Goals for Santos, Plata and (with an appropriately muted and respectful celebration) Tchani.