Toronto, ON – The Chicago Fire have won four of their last five MLS matches to climb the Eastern Conference standings, but manager Frank Klopas was still cautious ahead of a trip to Toronto FC on Wednesday.
Chicago could overtake the Houston Dynamo and Red Bull New York and surge into second place behind Sporting Kansas City with a win, but Klopas admitted "we can't get comfortable and relaxed."
The Fire (13-8-5) have turned into one of the better teams in the league since the calendar turned to August, but they cannot overlook TFC (5-16-6).
"Right now we're in a good spot; we're in a good spot because we don't have to rely on other teams. We have to worry about ourselves," Klopas said.
"We need to keep going and improving and working just as hard and be ready for the next game because everything we worked on up to this point can change very quickly."
Chicago has at least one match in hand on all four teams above it in the East, but if it wastes its chance to claim three points against Toronto, the rest of the season will take on added importance.
In addition to being within reach of second and three points of Sporting with a win, the Fire are also just three points ahead of D.C. United - which is in sixth and currently out of the playoff spots.
Chicago proved in late August it cannot guarantee success on the road, as it lost 4-2 at D.C. United. Otherwise, the Fire have been hot since a 2-1 victory over Toronto FC on Aug. 4.
The Fire have defeated the Philadelphia Union on the road, and the New England Revolution and Houston Dynamo at Toyota Park in their last five games. Chicago defeated the Houston, 3-1, in its last league match.
"We played well over the course of 90 minutes and I'm definitely pleased with the effort tonight and I'm going to look forward to getting better as a unit and getting to the game in Toronto and getting another result," Chicago goalie Sean Johnson.
Chicago acquired midfielder Wells Thompson on Monday from the Colorado Rapids, and he will be available against Toronto.
Toronto has endured a miserable season, as it started with nine losses in just 10 matches under former coach Aron Winter. Paul Mariner has guided the team to more success, but TFC has reverted to early-season form of late.
TFC has five losses during a seven-game winless drought and has just 21 points from 27 matches this season, by far the worst in the league. Toronto sits five points behind Philadelphia in the East, and getting off the bottom is the only goal attainable for the club the rest of the way.