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Preview: Toronto FC looks to continue resurgence in form against the Chicago Fire

The Reds have won three and drawn one of their last four games in all competitions.

MLS: FC Cincinnati at Toronto FC Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

Javier Perez’s men have a pep in their step after recording seven points from a possible nine in their last three MLS matches. Not forgetting the 4-0 drubbing of York United in the Canadian Championship quarter-finals, Toronto FC is exhibiting a sense of urgency that has so often been missed in recent times.

An entertaining 3-2 home win over FC Cincinnati saw the Reds trade places with the Orange and Blue in the Eastern Conference, with TFC now in 13th on 22 points. While it’s still mathematically possible, a late playoff push continues to feel more like “mission improbable” for Toronto, but nonetheless, the players will have their sights set on a third consecutive MLS home win when the Chicago Fire comes to visit on Sunday.

Kickoff is set for 4:00 pm EST at BMO Field, with the game available to watch live on TSN.

In what has been a bright conclusion to the season so far, Toronto FC has arguably been playing their best football yet in 2021. Their free-flowing attacking play, coupled with a new-found grit on defence, has seen the Reds score nine and concede just three in their last four competitive outings.

Port Williams’ very own, Jacob Shaffelburg, has been the star of TFC’s recent resurgence in form, with the 21-year-old tallying six goal contributions (two goals and four assists) during the month of September.

Yeferson Soteldo and Ifunanyachi Achara have also shone on the attacking front, contributing a combined total of four goals and five assists since August 1st.

The Reds will now look to replicate their recent attacking exploits against a Chicago Fire side who has won just one of their last six MLS matches.

Their latest fixture ended in a comfortable 2-0 win over New York City FC, a first win in five for the Fire, but it wasn’t enough for Raphael Wicky to save his job as the former FC Basel manager was sacked a day later.

Chicago is currently 12th in the Eastern Conference standings, five points above TFC, but having played a game more than their upcoming opponent.

In terms of team news, Perez gave no confirmation as to whether Alejandro Pozuelo will be available on Sunday. The reigning MLS MVP has not featured for the Reds since the 3-1 defeat to CF Montreal just over a month ago.

On the injury front, centre-backs Chris Mavinga and Eriq Zavaleta are both unlikely to feature, same goes for forwards Jordan Perruzza and Dom Dwyer.

Ayo Akinola, Ralph Priso and Tsubasa Endoh remain long-term absentees, but Perez did say that he expects Jozy Altidore, who last played for TFC in early August, to make a return to the side before the end of the season.

Sunday’s clash at BMO Field will be the 33rd meeting in history between Toronto and Chicago, with the Reds having recorded 12 total wins versus Chicago’s nine. The two sides last met back on July 24th as goals on either side of halftime from Soteldo and Nick DeLeon secured a 2-1 win for Toronto at Soldier Field.

A notable statistic ahead of their upcoming clash is that TFC is unbeaten in their last 12 games against the Fire. Nine wins and three draws highlights just how dominant the Reds have been against their Eastern Conference rival. Chicago’s last victory over Toronto came on the 4th of April, 2015, where they battled back from 2-1 down to win 3-2 at home.

Another noteworthy figure ahead of Sunday’s clash is that TFC has scored at least two goals in each of their last 10 games against Chicago.

Sebastian Giovinco, Jonathan Osorio and Altidore lead the way as the matchup’s three all-time top scorers with eight, six and five goals respectively.

With another international break already upon us, a fourth win in five across all competitions will set the Reds up nicely for their final seven (eight if they reach the CanChamp Final) games of the 2021 campaign.

Predicted Lineups:

Toronto FC: Bono; Auro, Gonzalez, Lawrence, Laryea; Bradley, Delgado; Osorio, Soteldo, Shaffelburg; Achara

Chicago Fire: Shuttleworth; Kappelhof, Pineda, Bornstein; F. Navarro; Espinoza, Stojanovic, M. Navarro, Medran; Offor, Beric