Preview: Toronto look for first win of season vs. Fire

TORONTO FC vs CHICAGO FIRE
BMO FIELD, Toronto, Ont.
April 21, 2012 (WEEK 7, MLS Game #56)
3:30 p.m. ET (NBC SN)

Toronto FC will be looking to claim their first victory of the Major League Soccer season when they meet the Chicago Fire on Saturday afternoon at BMO Field. TFC saw their season-opening losing streak extended to a club-record five games last weekend in a 1-0 home loss to Chivas USA. The Fire returned from a bye week with a 1-1 home draw against the Houston Dynamo in a game cut short due to weather.

REFEREE: Kevin Stott. SAR (bench): Craig Lowry; JAR (opposite): Brian Poeschel; 4th: David Gantar
MLS Career: 217 games; FC/gm: 25.8; Y/gm: 3.4; R: 58; pens: 44

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NBC Sports Preview: TOR vs. CHI

INJURY REPORT:

  • TORONTO FC - OUT: FW Nicholas Lindsay (L knee surgery recovery); DF Dicoy Williams (R knee surgery recovery); DF Jeremy Hall (sports hernia surgery recovery); GK Stefan Frei (L lower leg); MF Nick Soolsma (L hamstring strain); PROBABLE: MF Torsten Frings (R hamstring strain)
  • CHICAGO FIRE - OUT: MF Steven Kinney (R posterior tibialis tendinitis); DF Cory Gibbs (R knee meniscus tear)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none

SUSPENDED: none

WARNINGS:

SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: none

SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: CHI: Sebastian Grazzini

HEAD-TO-HEAD

ALL-TIME (11 meetings): Toronto FC 3 wins, 16 goals ... Fire 4 wins, 18 goals ... Ties 4

AT TORONTO (6 meetings): Toronto FC 3 wins, 12 goals ... Fire 2 wins, 11 goals ... Ties 1

RETURN MATCHES: 7/21: Toronto FC vs. Chicago Fire, 4 p.m. ET (TSN/RDS); 8/4: Chicago Fire vs. Toronto FC, 7:30 p.m. CT

LAST YEAR (MLS):

5/14: TOR 2, CHI 2 (Plata 9; Santos 47 - Pappa 63; Barouch 75)
8/21: CHI 2, TOR 0 (Oduro 16; Gargan 69)

  • The Fire took a 2-0 win in the second meeting last year, on Aug. 21, their first win vs. Toronto FC since 2009.
  • Toronto FC have never won at Toyota Park. The teams had played to back-to-back draws in Bridgeview before the Fire's won a year ago.
  • Coaches record: Aron Winter vs. CHI: P2 W0 L1 D1 ... Frank Klopas vs. TOR: P1 W1 L0 D0

TORONTO FC

Toronto FC went down to defeat for the fifth time in five starts in league play this season, losing 1-0 to Chivas USA on Saturday afternoon at BMO Field. TFC is in 10th place in the Eastern Conference.

HIGHLIGHTS: Toronto fall to Chivas USA

LAST MATCH

  • The game's only goal came in the 31st minute. Chivas USA midfielder Oswaldo Minda beat a pair of TFC defenders to Miller Bolanos's corner kick, sending a downward header that pounded off the turf into the roof of the goal.
  • Chivas USA goalkeeper Dan Kennedy made five saves for the shutout, the best coming with one minute left as Danny Koevermans saw his wide-open, point-blank shot saved.
  • TFC head coach Aron Winter made four changes to the team that dropped a 2-1 decision to the MontrÈal Impact at Olympic Stadium. Adrian Cann and Miguel Aceval came into central defense for Ty Harden and Logan Emory, and Luis Silva and Reggie Lambe started in midfield for Julian de Guzman and Nick Soolsma.
  • TORONTO FC (4-1-2-3): Milos Kocic - Richard Eckersley, Adrian Cann, Miguel Aceval (Doneil Henry 56), Ashtone Morgan - Terry Dunfield - Luis Silva (Eric Avila 71), Reggie Lambe - Ryan Johnson, Danny Koevermans, Joao Plata.

TEAM NEWS

Toronto FC preview Fire matchup

  • Toronto FC set a club record with their fifth consecutive loss in the home defeat by Chivas USA. The club's previous record losing streak was four games - the first four games in club history.
  • "It has never happened in my soccer career, in my coaching career that you play five games and get zero points," said TFC head coach Aron Winter. "You have to be honest, we are playing well, we are creating chances and we are in a situation where things are just not going the way we want them to go, it's bad luck, it's the only thing I can explain."
  • Said striker Danny Koevermans: "The thing is we don't play bad, we created our chances and we just didn't score and had one against us. So we have to stay positive and think that it's got to turn around. We should have at least six or seven points now. I know it's the worst start in franchise history."
  • Toronto FC's 0-5-0 start is tied for the third-worst in MLS history. The 1999 Kansas City Wizards started 0-7; in 2001, D.C. United began 0-6-0. United also started 2010 at 0-5-0.
  • "We're not surrendering," Winter said. "I'm a winner, I'm going to win also even at this moment where it is a difficult situation, five games, zero points. The fans I can understand don't like it and they're going to be upset or whatever. But you have to be honest the team is making progression. Playing well, creating chances."
  • TFC have not scored a goal in any of their three league games at BMO Field, and have been outscored 10-2 for the league campaign.
  • "Last season a couple of those balls went in," Koevermans said after the Chivas match. "That's life. Last season everything was gold when I touched and now it's like a leg in between or the goalkeeper will save. Goals will come eventually. I wish I had four or five goals. It was possible. And the points will come, I'm sure of it. We have played decent. I think everybody saw again that we didn't deserve this loss. The score says different."
  • TFC have also not held a lead at any point during the league season. "This is probably the most unlucky I've been in my whole career," Ryan Johnson said. "It's mind-boggling."
  • Defender Adrian Cann made his season debut, coming into the center of defense and playing the full match. Cann had been out after undergoing offseason knee surgery.
  • TFC were hoping to have midfielder Torsten Frings again available, but the former German international was still held out of the Chivas match with his hamstring injury. Frings has not played since coming off the field in the first half of MLS season opener vs. Seattle on March 17.
  • Eric Avila made his second substitute appearance in the last four matches. He was in the starting lineup for the league opener in Seattle but has not figured since.
  • "I'm sitting patiently, getting my chances to come in as much as I can help the team out whatever minutes I get," Avila said "... I want to go in there and help the team out as much as possible. Coming in last game was big for me just helping the team out."

CHICAGO FIRE

The Chicago Fire came back from a bye week and gained a point in a 1-1 draw with the Houston Dynamo on Sunday evening at Toyota Park in a match shortened to 65 minutes because of inclement weather. The Fire are in seventh place in the Eastern Conference with 5 points from 4 games.

HIGHLIGHTS: Chicago draw in rain-shortened match

LAST MATCH

  • The match was stopped for the first time in the 13th minute by referee Geoff Gamble because of a bolt of lightning and the peal of thunder. The game was halted for 70 minutes before it resumed.
  • In the 24th minute, the Dynamo broke through. Brian Ching peeled off the backline and sprung Will Bruin on a through ball that split the Fire center backs, and the second-year striker coolly beat Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson inside the right-hand post.
  • Just three minutes later, the Fire found an equalizer. After Patrick Nyarko was taken down at the top of the box, a Pavel Pardo direct kick deflected off of the back of Logan Pause, curled over goalkeeper Tally Hall, hit the underside of the crossbar and down over the line.
  • After 20 minutes in the second half, which included no shots on target, another bolt of lightning was sighted and Gamble pulled the players off the field for a final time. Under MLS rules, a match abandoned after the second half has kicked off is considered official.
  • Fire head coach Frank Klopas made three changes to the team that suffered a 2-0 loss to the Colorado Rapids at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. Dan Gargan and Arne Friedrich came into the side, in place of Cory Gibbs and Rafael Robayo, while Sean Johnson took over in goal for Paolo Tornaghi.
  • CHICAGO FIRE (4-3-1-2): Sean Johnson - Dan Gargan, Arne Friedrich, Jalil Anibaba, Gonzalo Segares - Logan Pause, Pavel Pardo, Marco Pappa - Sebastian Grazzini - Patrick Nyarko, Dominic Oduro.

TEAM NEWS

Fire Drill: Orr Barouch

  • The Fire-Dynamo game was the first since the 2000 season that was ended before the completion of 90 minutes and ruled an official game. The DC-KC game June 10, 2000 was stopped at halftime with the game scoreless, a result that stood.
  • Logan Pause's goal was his first goal since 2010. Pause has scored three goals in his 10-year MLS career.
  • "I was trying to get away. I'm chalking it up to old age and not being able to get out of the way of Pavel's (Pardo) shot ... I tried everything I could to get out of the way, but it tagged me in the back and went into the goal," Pause said.
  • Former German World Cup performer Arne Friedrich made his MLS debut, playing 90 minutes at center back with Cory Gibbs out with a knee injury.
  • "He is going to get better and better but his talent quality is not limited to a soccer player," assistant coach Leo Percovich said. "He is another player that has come to help this beautiful group we have." Said Friedrich: "We need to adjust as a team, we need to know each other. [Communication] needs time. I guess in the next couple of games we'll be better."
  • The Fire still have yet to score multiple goals in any game this season. Only Toronto FC have scored fewer goals this season (Houston and Philadelphia have also scored three).
  • "Tonight you could see how well guys were moving and the simplicity of getting the ball on the attacking half. It allowed guys like Seba (Grazzini) and Marco (Pappa) to be creative, and defending you saw everyone working extra hard at home and really competing," Pause said. "There were times in the first couple of games where guys would get frustrated with the how things were going or whatever, and I think today we were a lot more patient as a group."
  • Just six of the Fire's 47 total attempts at goal have come inside the penalty area. "We showed glimpses in the first half that we actually played some pretty good soccer. We created quite a bit of chances. If we were just a little bit cleaner in the attacking third, maybe we get another one in the first half," said Pause.
  • On the closing of the primary transfer window, the Fire announced the signing of striker Chris Rolfe, who left the club for Danish Superliga side Aalborg BK in January 2010. Rolfe has 36 goals and 18 assists in 123 league appearances for the Fire from 2005-09.
  • "I'm thrilled to return to Chicago and play for the Chicago Fire," Rolfe said. "The Fire has always been a special place for me. I look forward to getting in and putting in the work to help the team."