Chicago Fire Vs Toronto FC: The swinging playoff pendulum

MONTREAL, QC - JULY 13: Alejandro Pozuelo #10 of Toronto FC celebrates a second half goal with teammate Tsubasa Endoh #31 against the Montreal Impact during the MLS game at Saputo Stadium on July 13, 2019 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QC - JULY 13: Alejandro Pozuelo #10 of Toronto FC celebrates a second half goal with teammate Tsubasa Endoh #31 against the Montreal Impact during the MLS game at Saputo Stadium on July 13, 2019 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /

Toronto FC are searching for home-field advantage in the playoffs when they face Chicago Fire this Sunday. With the Fire not yet out of playoff contention either, the swinging playoff pendulum is set and ready.

Toronto FC may have already clinched their place in the 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs, but their work is not done with two regular-season games remaining. The swinging playoff pendulum is set and ready for another rollercoaster affair.

On Sunday, TFC take to the road to visit the Chicago Fire at SeatGeek Stadium, sitting fifth in the Eastern Conference with 46 points. That puts them two points back from D.C. United who currently occupy the final home playoff position in fourth with 48 points.

The opportunity is within their reach, facing a Chicago Fire team currently out of the playoffs, sitting in eighth-place on 38 points. Toronto will close out the regular season on Decision Day at home to another team below the playoff line, at home to the Columbus Crew.

Chicago certainly won’t roll over though, knowing likely anything other than taking the full three points on Sunday could result in their elimination from playoff contention. That will depend on how seventh-place New England (42 points), fair at home to Eastern-leading New York City FC — the Revolution have done everything in their power to giveaway that final playoff spot, with just one win in their past nine matches, but Chicago have failed to take advantage, having won just once in their past four themselves and just twice in the past six.

A 4-0 home win over FC Dallas on September 14 had looked to have put the Fire in a strong position to make up ground, with a very winnable match away to FC Cincinnati last week. Unfortunately for Chicago, their road woes continued and they managed just a single shot on target at Nippert Stadium and took just a single point in a 0-0 draw.

The Fire’s playoff chances are slim. FiveThirtyEight gives them just a 14-percent chance of playing past next weekend, though they will have the advantage of playing a Toronto side coming off short rest, having just played in the Canadian Championship Final on Wednesday against Montreal.

Toronto FC hosted the Impact at BMO Field Wednesday in Leg 2 of the Canadian Championship Final, winning 1-0 after 90 minutes. However, they lost Leg 1 in Montreal last week by the same scoreline. With an aggregate score of 1-1, the Impact went on to win on penalties 3-1, ending Toronto’s three-year run of Canadian Championship titles.

The Canadian Championship losses have been the only blemishes on TFC’s record of late though. Toronto last lost a match in MLS play on August 3 on the road to the New York Red Bulls. Since then, they’ve remained undefeated across their past eight MLS matches.

That included coming moments away from leaving Banc of California Stadium with a 1-0 win over Supporters’ Shield-winning LAFC last weekend. Toronto led off a Tsubasa Endoh goal in the 19th minute and held the lead until Chris Mavinga’s moment of madness in stoppage time which saw him throw himself into Latif Blessing in the box. The result was a successful Carlos Vela penalty to leave Toronto with a single point in a 1-1 draw.

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The loss in the final minutes is surely a letdown for the Reds, however, it’s been pretty clear their real focus is on making another run at MLS Cup this season. Leg 1 of the final saw TFC rest several regulars, while the weekend saw them dress a full squad to travel to Los Angeles, in a non-conference match, where they weren’t favored to win. By contrast, the Impact, who weren’t even in a playoff position, didn’t even dress Bojan, Ignacio Piatti or Maximiliano Urruti in their weekend match away to the Los Angeles Galaxy.

With home-field advantage on the line, you can be sure Greg Vanney will field his strongest lineup on Saturday against the Fire. TFC will feel confident in taking something from this weekend’s match, knowing the last time they lost to Chicago in a competitive match came back in April 2015. Since that time, Toronto are undefeated against Chicago over ten MLS matches, winning eight.

Earlier this year, the teams split the points in a 2-2 draw at BMO Field. The result extended a streak of now eight matches in a row to feature at least three goals scored between the two sides. Amazingly, Toronto has scored at least two goals in each of those eight matches.

More goals could be on the cards on Sunday as Toronto matches have seen both teams finding the back of the net in each of their past eight, while Chicago have scored a total of nine goals across their past three home matches.

Next. LAFC Vs Toronto FC: 3 things we learned. dark

With both teams desperately hoping for points this weekend, expect another exciting affair. There are playoffs ramifications galore to consider, and as the goals fly in, watch the pendulum swing one way and then the other.