Bridgeview, IL – Toronto FC and the Chicago Fire will meet at Toyota Park on Saturday with both sides in need of points to improve their playoff chances this season.
Chicago enters the match occupying the final postseason berth out of the Eastern Conference, sitting fifth on 32 points.
Toronto sits last in the East with just 19 points, but the club has made great strides under head coach Paul Mariner, winning three of its last four.
In its last outing, TFC lost at BBVA Compass Stadium to the Houston Dynamo, snapping its club-record three-game winning streak.
Houston opened the scoring just before halftime with Calen Carr heading home a corner kick delivery from Brad Davis. It was the sixth time this season that Toronto has conceded a goal from a corner, tied for most in MLS.
"You've got to stay with your runners, you've got to be on your runner," defender Richard Eckersley said after the match. "Even if you don't win the header you need to know [where he is]. It was damaging today, just 30 seconds before halftime. We know Houston are a good side especially on set pieces. Besides that they didn't break us down. It's just that the set pieces were a problem for us today."
Chicago's last contest ended in somewhat disappointing fashion as well. A road point against the San Jose Earthquakes is not necessarily a bad result, but the Fire consider themselves unlucky having held a one-goal lead into the eighth minute of second-half stoppage time when Steven Lenhart pulled back a late equalizer.
"We played very well, created a lot of chances, and scored a great goal. We came [to San Jose] to take three points, but the way the game ended we feel very disappointed," Chicago head coach Frank Klopas said. "We played against the best team, but it hurts the way it ended. ... Sometimes the game is harsh. It's a good point to take away on the road."
The Fire have altered their roster considerably in the past few weeks, adding two Designated Players in Alvaro Fernandez and Sherjill MacDonald. MacDonald made his debut in the 1-1 draw with San Jose, but Fernandez did not join the club in time.
Those moves could change Chicago tactics going forward as Klopas hinted that playmaker Marco Pappo would slide into the middle to operate underneath the team's strikers.
"Ideally, you need to have cover behind Marco where he has the flexibility to attack," Klopas said. "He does work defensively when he plays out wide, but it's a little bit different. He can combine, he has more space to get the ball. I think we have some flexibility to have different options depending on how we want to approach the game from a tactical standpoint."