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  • TFC v. Fire Preview: Return of the 'stache


    ccs-54-140264009125_thumb.jpgOf course, he doesn't have a 'stache in this Chicago Fire headshot, but Jon Conway and his well-groomed moustache quickly became fan favourites at BMO Field in his single year in Toronto.

    Today, Conway returns to the Reds' House on Lakeshore, this time as the starting 'keeper for the Fire.

    Advantage, TFC.

    Don't get me wrong, Conway is a good, sturdy goalkeeper -- and a hell of a character -- and performed adequately for Toronto when called upon last year. That said, he's never been a great 'keeper in MLS, and at one point he had such confidence issues with the horrible New York Red Bulls teams of a couple of years ago that he earned the nickname "Wrong Way" Conway.

    And believe me, he earned that nickname.

    But Conway is not terrible, and if you were to plunk him behind solid MLS teams like LA, RSL or the current Red Bulls, he'd likely be in the running for goalkeeper of the year simply because he is competent enough not to make too many mistakes.


    That said, the 2011 incarnation of the Chicago Fire are not a solid MLS team. In fact, they are pretty close to awful, and, as Toronto supporters know all too well, awful MLS teams need outstanding goalkeepers to give them a chance at success.

    Again, advantage TFC.

    Chicago are one of the rare teams in MLS that Toronto have been consistently competitive with. Even in the heady days of Cuauhtémoc Blanco, TFC managed to find ways to beat the Fire. To be sure, this is TFC we are talking about, so being "competitive" with Chicago actually means they've won three times in nine total meetings.

    Curiously, the record between the two sides is 3-3-3, which each team having scored 14 goals. This includes a number of blowouts on either side, the most recent being that crazy 4-1 game at BMO Field last May in which Nick Labrocca scored one of the strangest goals you'll ever see.

    Will tonight's match be a blowout like that wind-assisted rout, or will it run more along the lines of the return match in Illinois in which neither side managed to find the goal?

    Well, neither club are really scoring all that much these days, so that lowers the possibility of a goalfest. Chicago are in worse shape than Toronto in terms of recent form, with the Fire having gone win-less in their last six matches.

    TFC will be missing Alan Gordon again, changing the dimension of whatever offence they can muster, while the Fire will be relying heavily on Guatemalan trickster Marco Pappa and Uruguayan Diego Chaves to provide a spark going forward. Ghanaian Partick Nyarko would have been another weapon in Chicago's arsenal, except that he's out with a concussion.

    That's pretty much it for Chicago going forward, as everyone else on their roster has been mediocre at best.

    This is a tough match to handicap, based simply on how erratic TFC have been thus far in 2011. Like all of MLS, Toronto have shown better at home than on the road, and yet they also shown that they can be spanked at BMO Field by a crappy team like DC United.

    Chicago is an even crappier team than DC, on a long stretch of uninspiring play, which likely means that they are due for a "wake up game" at some point. TFC have been on the opposing end of too many of those wake up games over the years, and will need to keep the Fire off the scoresheet for the first 15-20 minutes -- while maintaining a lot of that "possession" that Aron Winter preaches about -- if they plan to keep Chicago in doldrums for at least one more match.

    Toronto FC v. Chicago Fire

    Saturday, May 14, 2011. 7:00pm EDT.

    BMO Field. Toronto, ON.

    Watch: GolTV Canada, MLS MatchDay Live

    Listen: Sportsnet Radio Fan 590, Fan590.com


    Photo: Chicago Fire / MLS

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