Toronto FC visit the Chicago Fire on Saturday with both teams coming off midweek Cup victories.
Toronto (4-11-4, 16 points) enters the match having defeated the Ottawa Fury of the USL in the first leg of its Canadian Championship series. Jonathan Osorio scored the lone goal in the victory.
“He’s been our best player this season,” goalkeeper Clint Irwin said of Osorio. “Playing with a lot of confidence, everything is crisp, he’s working hard for the team. He really led us out there today.”
Osorio, a midfielder, has six goals in MLS play this season to lead Toronto, which could get another key scorer back from injury.
Forward Jozy Altidore, who finished second on the team with 15 goals last season, could play for the first time since March. When asked Friday if Saturday would come too soon, Altidore told reporters with a laugh, “Well, I’m not the coach. We’ll see what happens.” But he sounded like a player ready to be on the pitch.
“I’m excited; excited to play,” Altidore said. “Obviously, I wish I was coming back in different circumstances, but it is what it is; we are where we are. I’m looking forward to getting back out there to help the team in this tough position.”
Belying that win on Wednesday is the fact Toronto hasn’t managed to grab all three points in an MLS game since June 8. The team has played six games since then, four of them losses. The two draws came against fellow Eastern Conference cellar dwellers Orlando City SC and D.C. United.
The Fire (6-10-5, 23 points) defeated Louisville City 4-0 in an U.S. Open Cup match Wednesday. That victory followed a three-game losing streak in league play, leaving Chicago two spots ahead of Toronto in the standings but still on the outside looking in when it comes to the postseason picture.
The Cup victory, though, is something coach Veljko Paunovic wants his team to keep in mind.
“We are going to use this game as a good reference how to play every single game, not only in the Open Cup,” he said, “but in our league.”
Preserving a clean sheet would certainly be a move in the right direction. The Fire have given up 10 goals in their past three league matches.
Chicago will be without midfielder Djordje Mihailovic (right knee surgery), forward Michael de Leeuw (left knee surgery), goalkeeper Patrick McLain (hamstring) and defenders Matt Polster (MCL surgery) and Grant Lillard (right quad). Forward Luis Solignac (left quad) and defenders Kevin Ellis (left calf contusion) and Rafael Ramos (left ankle) are questionable.
Toronto midfielder Victor Vazquez (knee) might join Altidore in returning. Out are defensemen Drew Moor (quadricep strain), Chris Mavinga (hamstring), Auro (hamstring) and Jason Hernandez (hamstring) and goalkeeper Caleb Patterson-Sewell (elbow).
—Field Level Media