Fire-Toronto FC Preview

Toronto FC is off to the worst start in franchise history, but

it hopes to receive a lift from the return of its captain this

weekend.

Midfielder Torsten Frings is expected back in the lineup

Saturday when Toronto hosts a Chicago Fire team that will be

without Chris Rolfe, who was signed this week to spark a struggling

offense.

Toronto’s early woes continued with a 1-0 loss to Chivas USA

last Saturday – the third time it’s been shut out this year – as

the club dropped to 0-5.

That surpasses the worst start in franchise history, set in

Toronto’s first season of 2007. That team avoided a fifth straight

loss to open the season with a home victory over Chicago.

Toronto hopes history can repeat itself this weekend, but the

club has struggled on both ends of the pitch, getting outscored

10-2 in MLS play and 20-9 in all matches.

Coach Aron Winter has tried to shake things up, moving highly

paid but struggling designated player Julian de Guzman to the

bench. He did not see any playing time against Chivas.

“You’re making choices for the balance of the team,” Winter

said. “Only 11 players can be in the lineup.”

Frings is expected to be one of those Saturday. He dressed last

weekend for the first time since straining a hamstring March

17.

“He makes the rest of the players around him play more at ease,

more confident,” said defenseman Adrian Cann, who returned last

weekend from a torn ACL that kept him out for much of last season.

“Playing alongside him, it feels nice knowing that he has the

experience and knows what to do with the ball once he receives

it.”

The injury news wasn’t all good this week, however, with forward

Nick Soolsma out Saturday due to a sore hamstring.

Frings’ return comes against fellow German international Arne

Friedrich, who recently signed a one-year deal with Chicago and

made his MLS debut last week.

The Fire (1-1-2) signed Friedrich, a veteran of two World Cups,

during the offseason, but he wasn’t in game shape until the past

week. His addition to the lineup came as the Fire learned they’d be

without Cory Gibbs for the next four months after he underwent knee

surgery.

Chicago is off to a poor start as well, with its only win coming

against Philadelphia on March 24. It settled for a 1-all draw with

Houston on Sunday in a match shortened 66 minutes due to

lightning.

Looking for an offensive boost with three goals on the year,

Chicago brought back one of the franchise’s all-time players in

Rolfe, who last played with the Fire in 2009. The forward, who had

40 goals in 149 matches for Chicago over 2005-09, had been playing

for Denmark’s Aalborg, scoring six goals in 32 matches over three

seasons.

However, Rolfe’s return has been delayed after he suffered a

minor ankle injury in training this week.

“I’m disappointed not to be ready for Toronto,” Rolfe said. “But

… I’m working to be back very soon.”

Chicago has gone 1-0-2 in its last three against Toronto,

posting two shutouts. The teams played to a 2-all draw in Toronto

last year.