Fire-Toronto FC Preview
If the Chicago Fire are to move into playoff position in the Eastern Conference, they might need to do so minus their top scorer for the immediate future.
It's uncertain if injured midfielder Mike Magee will be in the lineup when the Fire try to avoid a third straight road defeat by beating lowly Toronto FC for a fifth consecutive time Wednesday night.
Magee scored early Saturday, but a groin injury kept him out the entire second half of Chicago's 2-1 loss at Seattle. He's scored nine goals in 14 matches since being acquired from Los Angeles on May 24.
"With the amount of games coming up and being on turf (Saturday) we wanted to make sure we don't miss him for four or five games,'' Fire coach Frank Klopas said. "He tweaked it a little but it could have been worse.
"He came out and hopefully we got it on time and he will be ready for Wednesday.''
Chicago (10-11-5) is seventh in the East, but two points out of the fifth spot - with a game in hand on New England and Houston, the teams tied for the conference's final playoff berth. However, the Fire have recorded three goals - one on an own goal while Magee assisted on another - during a 1-2-1 stretch.
They've been outscored 4-1 while dropping their last two on the road.
"I think we do believe that we're right in there," captain Logan Pause told the Fire's official website. "We also know the reality, that the window to gain ground is getting smaller and we need to take advantage of the games that we play, especially the conference games that are coming up."
The Fire appeared to be headed toward a draw Saturday until defender Gonzalo Segares ran back toward the goal to clear the ball and instead knocked it into the net in the 89th minute.
"It happens,'' Klopas said. "You're running behind and sometimes the ball comes and those things happen."
With or without Magee, the Fire appear to have a good chance at bouncing back against a Toronto club whose 22 points are the second-fewest in MLS. Chicago is 4-0-2 against Toronto (4-13-10) since falling 4-1 on the road May 8, 2010.
Toronto has been outscored 10-3 during an 0-3-2 stretch that followed consecutive victories on July 27 and Aug. 4. Ryan Nelsen's club kept things close early Saturday at Portland before yielding three goals in the final 10 minutes of a 4-0 loss.
"The frustrating thing is that it definitely wasn't a 4-0 performance," Nelsen told the league's official website. "For the most part, the guys did really well."
Forward Andrew Wiedeman had one of Toronto's two shots on goal Saturday, and scored the team's most recent goal during a 1-1 draw with New England at home Aug. 30.
Toronto acquired forward Bright Dike, a first-round draft pick in 2015 and some allocation money from Portland on Monday in exchange for little-used forward Maximiliano Urruti.
Dike, who has yet to play this season while recovering from a knee injury, had six goals in 23 league matches during his first two years with the Timbers.