The Chicago Fire had a chance to top the MLS standings come Saturday night when they face first place Toronto FC. Instead, the Men In Red will need to beat the top team in MLS Saturday night just to keep pace in the playoff hunt. Two dismal road losses in a week sees the Fire slide down to third place in the Eastern Conference with fourth place New York Red Bulls hot on their tails. To add to the negative spell, starting Fire center back Joao Meira came out injured with a calf strain in the early goings of Wednesday’s 0-3 loss to the Montreal Impact. Before being subbed off in the fifth minute in Montreal, the Portuguese defender had played every minute of the Fire’s 2017 season.
Injuries and Travel Troubles for the Chicago Fire as Toronto FC Visits
The Chicago Fire’s season is becoming a Jekyll and Hyde story. Undefeated and often dominant at home while flat and increasingly rotten on the road. The Fire have won their previous four home games by a staggering 14-1 goal margin, in stark contrast to the 4-11 in their last four on the road. Terrible road performances appear to be the status quo across the league aside from the teams ahead of the Fire. Those two, Toronto FC and NYCFC, unsurprisingly have the best two records away from home in the Eastern Conference. Chicago’s stars have all gone silent on the road, non more noticeable than Bastian Schweinsteiger and Nemanja Nikolic. The Fire will need to solve their travel troubles if they are to challenge for the Supporters’ Shield, and especially if they want to progress to MLS Cup. For now they can focus on their on turf, with three of their next four games coming at home. A loss at home to TFC however, may put the Supporters Shield out of reach.
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Tough Game Looms at Home Against the League Leaders
Saturday’s game at Toyota Park puts the Fire’s undefeated home record of 10-0-1 to the test. Toronto FC arrives six points ahead of the Fire and boast the only winning road record in MLS. Chicago’s shallow pool of defenders is thinner than ever with the ongoing absence of Brandon Vincent, Matt Polster, and now Joao Meira. Polster and Meira’s injuries are rumored to not be serious but nevertheless they are likely not to feature against TFC. The Fire had been fortunate with the injury bug regarding their defenders. Chicago had been riding out much of the season with just the three center backs on the roster. The Fire added a fourth central defender in Christian Dean last week. The former Vancouver first round draft pick made his debut for the Fire Wednesday, coming in for in Meira in the fifth minute. The tall defender’s first touch as a Man In Red will be one he will want to quickly forget.
Chicago will need to organize their makeshift defense against the top team in MLS. Toronto is more rested having not played at midweek. TFC may even have deepest team the league has ever seen and amongst the best DP trios an MLS team has ever fielded. The Fire will be tested severely Saturday, the biggest test they have faced at home. Toronto is rested, healthy and in a great run of form. Chicago will have to put in their best performance of the season Saturday. A draw won’t see the Fire climb in the standings, but given the health of their backline, a point could be acceptable for the Men In Red.