Nearly two months into the MLS season, the biggest surprise in the standings thus far is reigning champion Toronto FC.
The winners of the league’s 2017 Supporters’ Shield enter Saturday’s home game with the Chicago Fire in last place in the Eastern Conference with a league-low three points and a miserable 1-4-0 record.
Of course, Toronto FC has had its plate full to start the campaign, making it all the way to the final of the prestigious CONCACAF Champions League where it lost a heartbreaker in the final on penalty kicks to Chivas de Guadalajara, 4-2, on Wednesday night at Estadio Akron in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Now Toronto FC, which won the second leg against Chivas 2-1 to equal the aggregate score and force penalty kicks, must try and bounce back from the emotional loss just three days and a brutal travel schedule later. Toronto FC hosts Chicago at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday.
“I’m absolutely convinced and sure that if we can continue on this path there’s going to be more trophies,” captain Michael Bradley told reporters after Wednesday night’s loss.
“I have no complaints for my team,” TFC coach Greg Vanney said. “We worked hard. The tournament has been a grind and we battled the entire way, all the way to the end. ... I’ve got nothing to say to my guys other than I’m proud of them.”
Toronto FC has won its past six meetings with Chicago (2-3-1, 7 points), including a pair of 3-1 victories last season. But the Fire come in off an impressive 2-1 road win last weekend over the New York Red Bulls as goalie Richard Sanchez came up with nine saves en route to earning a spot on the MLS Team of the Week along with midfielder Dax McCarty.
“Of course Toronto is, for me, the best team in the league with New York City, so it is going to be very difficult for us over there, but especially our away victory at Red Bull Arena gave us a lot of confidence,” Chicago midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger told the Chicago Tribune. “For this game, we will definitely have to analyze our game and try to find some surprises for them.”