Toronto FC look to build on a three-game unbeaten run when they take on Chicago Fire at BMO Field on Sunday.
After moving up a spot in the table with a victory over Cincinnati, the Reds sit only five points behind the Fire with a game in hand.
Another big match for Toronto because a second consecutive win would give them much needed momentum as they try to escape the basement.
“It’s still about us trying to continue the positive run that we’ve been on over the last stretch,” said team captain Michael Bradley. “Just to continue to improve individually, collectively, and try to play in a way where our fans still understand that theirs pride in playing for this club.”
With the Reds hitting somewhat of a hot streak, you can’t say the same for the struggling Chicago side, which has only managed one win in the last six games.
TFC will surely expect the victory at home, especially against a team that has just recently terminated the contract of head coach Raphael Wicky.
Manager Javier Perez knows it’ll still be just as difficult.
“It’s always challenging when you play a team that just replaced the coach,” said Perez, in a post-practice press conference on Friday. “The motivation is going to be there, in this case, its a new coach but not a new coach as Frank has been with the team.”
Wicky has been temporarily replaced with former assistant coach Frank Klopas, who can enter this contest optimistically with Toronto’s lengthy injury list to some key contributors.
Alejandro Pozuelo, Jozy Altidore, Ayo Akinola, Chris Mavinga and many other important players are ruled out with injuries.
There is no player more pivotal at the moment than Jacob Shaffelburg. The young Canadian scored a goal and recorded two assists against FC Cincinnati and was a focal point in the majority of chances that TFC created on the day.
Veteren teammate, Bradley is well aware of what Shaffelburg brings to the table.
“He’s in really good form, but for any of us who’s spent time with him over the last two or three years, it’s no real surprise, that’s for sure,” said Bradley.
Although Toronto look fluid on the attacking end, their defence still leaves much to be desired.
The Reds currently hold the worst defensive record in the MLS, giving up 53 goals in only 27 matches.
They fortunately match up against a Chicago team that sits near the bottom of the league in goals scored, recording a goal a game with 28 goals in 28 games.
But without all of the statistics and analysis, Toronto is simply playing better football than they have all season.
Head Coach Javier Perez will likely deploy the same front three of Shaffelburg, Yeferson Soteldo, and Ifunanyachi Achara, considering the exceptional performance they gave as a unit in the victory against Cincinnati.
Despite the long list of injuries, their position in the table and the underwhelming defensive record, Toronto has finally rounded into form.
The match will kick-off at BMO Field in Toronto at 4 p.m.