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Toronto FC vs Chicago Fire Match Preview

With TFC one step closer to full strength, they head to Chicago to take on the Fire in an Eastern Conference battle. We look at match talking points, a potential TFC starting XI, the Reds keys to the game, and I make another Bold but Useless prediction.

That's a good look, Nick.
That's a good look, Nick.
Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto FC and the Chicago Fire had similar games last week. Both teams had spells of good possession, offensive cohesion, and looked goal-dangerous in a few different ways. Both teams came up with one goal off of a set piece, though TFC had theirs suspiciously called back. TFC were missing 5 starters - Bradley, Altidore, Perquis, Morrow, and Caldwell. Chicago were without much-maligned playmaker Shaun Maloney and speedy Ghanaian Dominic Oduro David Accam. The similarities only go so far, though -- Chicago held on against Philadelphia's late attacks, while TFC conceded to RSL just a moment after drawing level.

Match Talking Points

I don't think those similarities or differences say much about the match, because we'll be seeing two largely different teams on the pitch. Chicago, when Maloney is on the field, look awkward and like they have a few square-peg round-hole situations, particularly with Maloney and Shipp tending to gravitate towards the same spaces and situations. When Bradley and Altidore are back in the lineup, TFC fit into and can execute Greg Vanney's 4-3-1-2/4-2-3-1/4-3-3/ whatever-you-want-to-call-it much better than when they aren't. Bradley's passing and Altidore's hold-up play were missed against RSL.

Both teams have players coming off International success. Bradley and Altidore had good games against Denmark and (pre-ejection) Switzerland. Shaun Maloney scored two for Scotland from the penalty spot. Lets see if that form translates to MLS action.

TFC are still hit by the injury bug - Perquis and Caldwell are highly doubtful for Saturday's game - and have drawn the ire of the MLS Disciplinary Committee as well, with Luke Moore being suspended for a tackle from behind in the RSL game. Sean Johnson may miss the game for the Fire, but with Jon Busch deputizing, the drop off in quality is minimal.

TFC Starting XI

football formations

With Perquis and Caldwell still out, Hagglund and Simonin look set to get the start. We could see Eriq Zavaleta's first minutes for TFC as well. Morrow returns to his Left Back spot after serving his suspension. With Bloom still not 100% fit, Creavalle retains the Right back spot. The rest is no surprise.

With Luke Moore gone, could we see Jordan Hamilton earn a few first-team minutes?

Keys to the Match

TFC have struggled mightily defending crosses, and Chicago have no shortage of players who can serve a ball. TFC may be better served trying to prevent crosses than defending them.

Chicago have speed up top in Amarikwa, Igboananike, and Accam that TFC will need to be aware of. Look for the fullbacks to make a few recovery runs to help out the less-quick centre backs. If they don't, it could turn ugly.

Giovinco needs to get into the game, and Chicago seems a good opponent to do it against. Matt Polster hasn't been all that good in central midfield, and Shipp, Maloney, and Stephens are varying degrees of lax when it comes to defending. Giovinco could find himself with more time on the ball in the final third, and he needs to use it well.

Last week I saw one successful Collen Warner nutmeg, tying him for the team lead with Benoit Cheyrou. This week's Bold but Useless Prediction: Another Jackson appearance at right back.

The game is Saturday, April 4 at 3 pm. You can catch it on MLS Live or Sportsnet One.