On Saturday evening Toronto FC will be at Toyota Park to take on the Chicago Fire. Chicago, who currently occupy 8th place in the Eastern Conference, are sitting on 23 points through 21 matches, and are just 4 points back of Montreal for the final playoff spot. In recent days the Fire have been snapping up Toronto FC fan favourites as they traded $400,000 in Targeted Allocation Money to Montreal for Toronto-born Raheem Edwards and on Friday, traded Jon Bakero and $50,000 in General Allocation Money to Toronto for Nicolas Hasler (which really messed up my lineup prediction). This is the first match of a two match series against the Fire, who will come to Toronto one week later, on the 28th of July.
Due to the departure of Hasler, Toronto will likely have 0 right backs on the roster (van der Wiel might return from injury in this one, but likely won’t be healthy enough to start, which means that they’ll probably have to play a formation with three at the back, like the 3-5-2 I have selected today.
With Clint Irwin taking the game against Ottawa on Wednesday, Bono has had a full week’s rest and should be the starter in this one. It is expected that Irwin will also start the second leg of the Canadian Championship, meaning that Bono will also likely get the game against Chicago next Saturday when the Fire travel to BMO Field.
Justin Morrow, Eriq Zavaleta, Nick Hagglund
Eriq Zavaleta and Nick Hagglund have been deployed a lot of over the last month or so, perhaps even too much. Without Drew Moor and Chris Mavinga, or any of the backup central defenders (Jason Hernandez and a converted Gregory van der Wiel), these two will likely play again in this one, unless Michael Bradley plays in the back 3, or a player is called up from TFC II.
Without a third centre back available, Justin Morrow has been used there in recent times. It is obviously not a desirable situation, but Morrow has looked competent in his appearances in the role this season.
Ashtone Morgan, Jonathan Osorio, Michael Bradley, Marky Delgado, Jay Chapman
This is where my prediction got interesting. I originally was thinking of a back four with Nicolas Hasler at right back but now that he’s been traded, there are no right backs available, which is why I’ve selected a 3-5-2 formation.
The middle three of my 3-5-2 is the same as the three that started against Orlando last Saturday: Jonathan Osorio (who captained the side and scored the only goal in the win over Ottawa mid-week), Marky Delgado and the captain Michael Bradley.
The wing-back positions are where things are changed up a bit. Now that he’s healthy again, I chose Ashtone Morgan to start over Ryan Telfer, who got the start in Florida. Morgan is more experienced than Telfer, which could come in handy when he drops back to help the back three. Without Drew Moor, the defence has had difficulty in stressful parts of matches, such as the final 20 minutes when leading, so watch for Morgan to drop back and provide some leadership.
The right side of midfield is where your guess is as good as mine. Because of his strong showing against Ottawa in the Canadian Championship, I have gone with Jay Chapman. If he does get the start, I wouldn’t expect him to do as much defending as Morgan would, perhaps playing as more of a traditional winger than a wing-back.
Sebastian Giovinco, Jordan Hamilton
Although Jozy Altidore will likely be among the 18 travelling to Chicago, I don’t expect him to see anything more than a late substitution, as he hasn’t played since April 25th. His return could be huge for TFC, who according to Tim Bezbatchenko, still believe they can make the playoffs.
Sebastian Giovinco and Jordan Hamilton have been starting alongside each other a lot recently, although Ayo Akinola appears to be finally breaking into the first team. Akinola finally made his MLS debut against Minnesota United a few weeks ago, and played against Sporting Kansas City, before making his first start against Ottawa on Wednesday. I imagine he will get another start in the second leg, which is why I have picked Hamilton over him for this one.