Fire in dire need of win against Toronto
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- The Chicago Fire have reached a double-digit winless streak for a second time this season. They are in dire need of a positive outcome when they host Toronto FC on Sunday at Toyota Park.
The Fire are in the midst of a 0-3-7 stretch -- the longest winless streak since they posted a 0-4-7 record from April 9 through June 9.
Chicago is coming off a 1-1 draw against D.C. United, establishing an MLS record with its 15th draw after conceding a second-half lead.
"We've got to keep coming back. I don't think it can get any lower than this," Fire defender Gonzalo Segares said. "We've just got to get up and keep pushing."
Chicago faces a Toronto team that is tied for the second-worst points total on the road with six, posting a 0-7-6 mark away from BMO Field. But the Fire have not earned a win at Toyota Park since their home opener on March 26 against Sporting Kansas City.
Chicago has not lost complete hope on this season as long as the mathematical playoff possibility continues to linger. Besides, the Fire's rostered players have plenty to play for regarding their own futures within the organization.
"We've got to be realistic -- at the point we're at, right now we're all playing for jobs next year," Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas said.
As the Fire (2-7-15, 21 points) prepare for their final 10 games of the season, many eyes will be on midfielder Sebastian Grazzini, who tallied Chicago's lone goal against Toronto on Thursday.
Grazzini was brought in to be the stable presence in a center midfield position that has needed an able body all season. Following Thursday's draw, the focus was on why Grazzini was taken out in the 72nd minute. One minute after Grazzini's exit to the bench, D.C. tallied its equalizer.
Klopas and Grazzini had contradicting remarks regarding the substitution. Klopas said it was because Grazzini was tiring, but Grazzini said to reporters that the move was purposely made so he could rest up for Toronto.
The Toronto match is now here, and Grazzini has yet to play in a full match with the Fire. Grazzini has two goals and an assist in four games, but he has averaged only 65 minutes per appearance. Defensive midfielder Pavel Pardo, on the other hand, has played the full 90 minutes in all four matches since his midseason arrival.
The substitution should have been a non-issue, because like most Fire matches this season, Chicago could not capitalize on its scoring chances against D.C.
"It all has to do with us building the mentality of not conceding goals when we're up, and trying not to fall behind and having to fight back," Fire midfielder and forward Patrick Nyarko said. "It's been like that throughout the season, and I don't think we're that kind of team yet. ... We need to concentrate and play a 90-minute game for once."
Two defenders are going up against their former teams Sunday. Fire right back Dan Gargan goes against his former Reds, while Evanston-born Dasan Robinson is on the Toronto side after being traded in late July.
Toronto (4-11-11, 23 points) is coming off a Thursday match, but not in league play. The Reds posted a 2-1 victory against Tauro FC in the CONCACAF Champions League Group C opener for both squads in Panama City, Panama. Ryan Johnson and Julian de Guzman netted first-half goals for Toronto.
Toronto has started to turn things around since its four-game losing streak in July. The Reds are in the midst of a 1-0-2 stretch in MLS action, posting a 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake on Aug. 13.