On the other hand, a Chicago win brings them to within three, so it’s a true six-pointer in the Supporters’ Shield race.
Kick-off: 8 p.m. ET
Venue: Toyota Park, Bridgeview
Chicago have a lot of injury problems in defence and Johan Kappelhof may be the only normal starter they have available for this game.
With that in mind, do Toronto come out aggressively in a bid to unsettle that unfamiliar back four? Or would they be wiser to play cautiously and wait for their opportunity to pick a hole?
When Toronto lose, it’s usually because they’re loose in possession and get burned in transition.
With that in mind, how Nicolas Hasler - assuming he starts at right wing-back - and Eriq Zavaleta get to grips with the speedy David Accam will be crucial, though not turning the ball over in the first place will be the most important thing.
The opposition view
1. Chicago are certainly not alone in looking a much better team at home than on the road, but how would you go about explaining the stark difference between those two records?
I think I'm done trying to argue that the Fire's play on the road in any way resembles their home form - they're demonstrably worse in basically all phases of the game away from home. But it's not from any systemic difference, frankly - it's more a matter of incremental failures at the individual level. When the Fire play well, they are heavily dependent upon outstanding play from the guys in the center of midfield, and Dad, Basti and Juninho are that crucial tick worse on the road, for whatever reason.
2. Joao Meira, Matt Polster and Brandon Vincent could all be out tonight. How do you see Chicago dealing with those defensive absences and what should Toronto be looking to exploit?
My best guess is that you will see a back line of Doody-Campbell-Kappelhof-Conner. Christian Dean had something of a horror-show debut Wednesday after coming on in the fifth minute for an injured João Meira, and is still working his way to full match fitness, so he's unlikely to start in my opinion.
The Fire have a few problems with this defensive lineup. Campbell and Kappelhof haven't logged many minutes together in the center of defense. Doody and Conner are good passers who read the game well, but neither of them has any pace. I'm frankly terrified.
3. Where is this Chicago team right now, in your view? Is a Cup run the expectation this year or do you think another year of seasoning is needed for them to truly be contenders?
This is the team that stands on the knife edge - they could find their rhythm again and win the rest of their games, or they could get stomped tonight and begin a death-spiral of ego and finger-pointing. Their form in May and June gave us some of the best football I've ever seen played in MLS; anything short of, say, hosting a playoff game would not be considered a success, especially with that form in mind.
But should they be favored? Not with a team like TFC in the same conference. So yes, I'd say the Fire are probably a year away.
TV channel & live stream
TV: TSN 1 & 4 (Canada), CSN Chicago (USA)
Stream: TSN Go (Canada), MLS Live (out of market)
Radio: TSN 1050 (Toronto), Poder 97.5FM (Chicago)
Benoit Cheyrou and Nick Hagglund are Toronto’s only definite absentees. Steven Beitashour has travelled with the squad after recovering from pancreas surgery but whether he is ready to feature or not remains to be seen.
John Goosens, Jorge Bava, Daniel Johnson and Brandon Vincent are all definitely out for Chicago, while Matt Polster, Joao Meira, Michael Harrington and Juninho are all rated as questionable.
Chicago: Lampson; Conner, Kappelhof, Dean, Doody; McCarty, Schweinsteiger, Juninho; Accam, Nikolic, De Leeuw.
Subs: Cleveland, Harrington, Campbell, Alvarez, Mihailovic, Solignac, Arshakyan.
Toronto: Bono; Zavaleta, Moor, Mavinga; Hasler, Delgado, Bradley, Vazquez, Morrow; Altidore, Giovinco.
Subs: Irwin, Hernandez, Beitashour, Osorio, Chapman, Edwards, Ricketts.