After an undefeated three-game homestand, the Chicago Fire now head on the road for three straight.
The first of the three road games is at Toronto FC, the defending Eastern Conference champions, on Friday. Coverage is on CSN Plus 2 starting at 6 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live.
Check out CSN's channel finder for where CSN Plus 2 is available for you. The match will air on Cozi TV. The Fire released further broadcast information for the match, including re-airs on CSN+ (11 p.m. Friday) and CSN (1 p.m. Saturday).
Toronto (1-1-4, 7 points) is out of the playoff positions for now, but has had just two matches at home. Both of those matches have been draws. The Fire (3-1-2, 11 points) 0-1-1 on the road so far this season.
The two teams met in the final preseason match in Florida. The Fire won 4-1. That result shouldn't have any bearing on Friday's match, but does provide some familiarity for some of the Fire's new players.
"This is for me, one of the best teams in MLS, for sure," Fire forward Nemanja Nikolic said. "We played against them in Florida. OK, this was the friendly game, but in that game we played really good and we can show some things. They have a lot of good players, a lot of individual players who can finish the game alone so we need to watch out on these things and to be prepared."
The trio of forwards Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore and midfielder Michael Bradley lead the way for TFC. Altidore has gotten off to a hot start with three goals and two assists while Giovinco has scored one goal.
Both Giovinco and Altidore will provide a tough test for a Fire defense that has recorded back-to-back shutouts.
"Just don't let him breathe, put pressure on him," defender Michael Harrington said. "These guys are good players, but they're very good players when you don't have pressure on them and you don't take care of them. Also when we have the ball we got to make sure that we're aware of where they are on the field so when the ball turns over, they don't get the ball in dangerous spots. These guys are good players, but it's nothing we can't handle and it's something we prepared for."
Last season Toronto swept the season series with three one-goal victories against the Fire. Giovinco had a goal and two assists in those games while Altidore had a goal and an assist.
"We will do everything to stop him," coach Veljko Paunovic said of Giovinco. "Great player, obviously with Giovinco in attack, a very difficult attack for all the teams around the league. We played against difficult teams in the past. Just last week against (Juan) Agudelo and (Kei) Kamara was also good attack, and Lee Nguyen also, so we are used to it. We have to know that there aren't easy games in this league. There are not easy attackers and we have to do everything to stop them. We will find a way."
A win would be a statement that the Fire are in the upper echelon of the conference, but even a draw would be a positive result. Despite a relatively slow start, Toronto is still one of the most talented teams in the league and has lost just once so far.
Midfielder Matt Polster's season debut for the Fire has continued to be pushed back. Polster has returned to training, but was still limited this week. After coming off a knee injury, Polster is listed as questionable with "right hip flexor tightness." Daniel Johnson, who has come off the bench each of the last three games, is also listed as questionable with a left adductor strain.
Toronto's injury report is lengthier. Goalkeeper Clint Irwin is out for the third straight game. Alex Bono has started in his place. Starting centerback Drew Moor is also out.
Chicago Fire at Toronto FC
Where: BMO Field, Toronto
When: Coverage begins at 6 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live
TV: CSN Plus 2/Cozi TV (channel finder)
Records: Fire (3-1-2, 11 points), TFC (1-1-4, 7 points)