TORONTO - In the midst of a season-best six-game unbeaten streak, Toronto FC is in solid position to get an embarrassing monkey off off its back.
The team has not won a Major League Soccer contest on the road yet this season (0-7-6 vs. 4-4-5 at home), but today’s opponent, the Chicago Fire has won an MLS-low two games this year.
The Fire is not as terrible as its 2-7-15 record indicates (the squad’s goal differential is just -7 compared to Toronto’s horrid -21) but the revamped Reds won’t get a better shot at ending their road woes than this. A tie is probably more likely though as Chicago has drawn eight of 11 home matches so far (1-2-8). Chicago has scored two goals or more at home just twice all season and the majority of its games seem to finish up at 0-0 or 1-1.
The Fire has not won since June 12 vs. the Columbus Crew.
A lack of finishing has been the main culprit and if TFC can continue to show it has improved offensively (at least two goals scored in six of its past seven matches) by putting in a pair, Chicago probably won’t be able to match that output.
Joao Plata, TFC’s most dangerous attacker this season, likely will play well. No doubt Aron Winter and his staff gave the young Ecuadorian an earful after Plata played poorly in Thursday’s 2-1 win over Tauro in Panama.
Plata was too ambitious, trying to take on the entire Tauro team far too often, a change from the unselfish play he has displayed at other times this season.
With midfielders Torsten Frings and Eric Avila available after sitting out the Tauro contest and with Terry Dunfield having been rested to get back to full health for a while now, Julian de Guzman could get a breather.
It is unclear who will start in goal. Milos Kocic has been busy lately with Stefan Frei nursing a couple of injuries, but Frei could be ready to return.
The game should be a physical one as Chicago leads MLS in fouls committed (339) while Toronto sits second with 325 — though Toronto has played two more games.
The Reds will renew acquaintances with Dan Gargan, who was traded for Dasan Robinson late last month.
Gargan said playing against his former club will be weird and acknowledged that it was hard to play through all the turmoil as TFC changed its system and roster significantly.
Only four of the players who started for TFC in May 14’s 2-2 draw with the Fire remain with the club.
“This year was difficult and it was difficult under the direction that they brought in,” Gargan told mlssoccer.com.
“My home’s in Chicago now. This is my team and I feel great being here and I feel right at home ... This is the team that I’m a part of and this is the team that I’m fighting for. I want to win.”
As do his former teammates.
Based on Chicago’s track record this season though, odds are neither Gargan nor the Reds come up with a victory on Sunday.