Photo by Jeff Vorva
The Fire would like to keep star player David Accam through 2020.
TORONTO FC AT CHICAGO FIRE
WHEN: 7 p.m., Saturday
WHERE: Toyota Park, Bridgeview
FIRE RECORD: 6-12-8
TORONTO RECORD: 12-8-7
LAST TIME: Host Toronto beat the Fire, 1-0, on July 9 as Justin Morrow scored in the ninth minute for the lone score of the night.
CHICAGO RED STARS AT FC KANSAS CITY
WHEN: 5 p.m., Sunday
WHERE: Swope Soccer Village, Kansas City, Missouri
RED STARS RECORD: 8-4-5 (through Sunday)
KANSAS CITY RECORD: 5-8-4
LAST TIME: The Stars won a 1-0 match July 30 at Toyota Park as Stephanie McCaffrey scored in the 53rd minute.
Time running out but Fire making a little playoff run
Chicago Fire General Manager Nelson Rodriguez hates where his team is at right now.
But he’s not giving up hope.
Last Thursday, he told a group of reporters that he didn’t like the fact the team had the worst record in Major League Soccer but there were nine matches left and the team was nine points behind D.C. United for the sixth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
“We control our destiny,” he said. “We still have everything at our feet. Five of those nine games are at home and we play three of the four teams ahead of us head-to-head. I’m optimistic.’’
Two days later, the Fire fueled his optimism even more after stunning Philadelphia, 3-0, before an announced crowd of 16,102 at Toyota Park in Bridgeview. Philadelphia fell to 11-10-7.
Philadelphia’s Roland Alberg picked up an own-goal in the 22nd minute while Michael de Leeuw and Arturo Alvarez scored second-half goals for the Fire. Sean Johnson, who gave up six goals at D.C. United on Aug. 27 (five came when the team was down a man) picked up his fifth shutout of the season.
The team is 6-0-6 in its last 12 games at Toyota Park (including MLS and Hunt Cup games) and the joint could be jumping on Saturday as first-year coach Veljko Paunovic said the game against Toronto is nearly sold out.
“We finally have a foundation,” Johnson said. “This league, the way it is, the summer months are important -- you can win two games and things can turn around quickly.”
It’s still a long shot for the Fire to make the playoffs, but the GM is not giving up hope.
“I feel this team is pounding the rock, as we like to say,” Rodriguez said. “Some of those rocks we put in front of ourselves. Some of those rocks are what I believe are placed the unbelievers and some placed by the make believers.
“I believe in our men and our character. We’re at a point in the season where certain statistics don’t matter anymore, such as having nine players under the age of 23. There are no more rookies at this stage of a season. There are no more surprises within the MLS season. Now it’s a test of character. We’re ready for this home stretch and I look forward to it.”
Accam’s comings and goings
David Accam, who leads the Fire with seven goals, was missing in action for Saturday’ game because he was called up by his national team, Ghana.
International professional teams have been trying to obtain him and the Fire is not interested in parting with him. He is under contract through 2017 with an option for 2018 and Rodriguez hopes to keep him around after that.
“We’re looking to extend his contract all the way to 2020,” Rodriguez said. “We want to keep him here and David says he loves playing here.’’
Newly acquired David Arshakyan was called up to his Armenian national team while Collin Fernandez was called up by the Peruvian U-20 team.
Mexico coming to Toyota Park
The annual Mexican National Team U.S. Tour will make its first visit to Toyota Park when El Tricolor takes on CONCACAF rival Panama at 8:30 p.m. on October 11.
Tickets went on sale to the public on Wednesday via Ticketmaster.com or by calling 800-653-8000.
The match -- the fifth and final stop of the 2016 Tour -- will be key for both squads as they prepare for November CONCACAF World Cup qualifying contests. Mexico currently sits atop Group A in the fourth round of qualifying with a perfect 4-0-0 record and has already qualified for the fifth and final round, known as The Hexagonal. Panama is in second place of Group B with a record of 2-1-1.
Red Stars tie Seattle
Seattle raced out to a 2-0 lead but the Chicago Red Stars countered with goals from Sofia Huerta and Christen Press in Sunday’s National Women’s Soccer League game at Toyota Park.