MLS Preview and Prediction: Chicago Fire vs New York City FC

Competition: Major League Soccer – Chicago Fire vs. New York City FC

Venue: Toyota Park – Sunday, March 6 – 14:00 ET (19:00 GMT – Live on Sky Sports 1)

Match Odds: Chicago 11/10 – Draw 12/5 – NYCFC 12/5

Match Preview

Chicago Fire host New York City FC in their 2016 MLS opener on Sunday in a key Eastern Conference clash between two sides looking to break into the top six this year.

Both teams endured tough campaigns last year and will be hoping that managerial changes can inspire a change of fortunes in 2016.

Chicago have brought in Veljko Paunovic as their new man and the former Serbia U20 coach will hope his high-pressing style of play can prove effective from the first kick.

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He has watched his Fire side enjoy an excellent preseason campaign, as they went unbeaten through six matches (W5 D1), and the focus will now be on transferring that form into the new MLS season.

A home opener will boost their chances of starting on the right foot, but NYCFC will arrive with high expectations of their own under new coach Patrick Vieira.

New York City finished in eighth place in their inaugural season last year and will hope to improve from their experiences in the league.

They will see a trip to Chicago as a winnable fixture but there is a real sense of the unknown surrounding both sides, as things could either improve dramatically, or remain poor.

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NYCFC also enjoyed a solid preseason campaign, winning five of their six games and losing just once, so this is perfectly poised.

The corresponding fixture last term saw Chicago run out 1-0 winners before the pair played out an entertaining 2-2 draw at Yankee Stadium.

Team News

Chicago Fire have three injury concerns heading into opening weekend. Eric Gehrig is ruled out with an ongoing foot injury, while David Accam and Matt Polster are both listed as questionable. Draft pick Brandon Vincent should make his professional debut at left-back.

New York City also have a few injury worries heading into their 2016 opener. Connor Brandt and No.1 draft pick Jack Harrison are both ruled out, while Frank Lampard looks set to miss this one as he is struggling with a calf problem. The English midfielder remains doubtful along with Jefferson Mena and RJ Allen.

Key Points

Chicago Fire’s preseason form: W/W/D/W/W/W

NYCFC’s preseason form: W/W/W/W/L/W

Key Stat: NYCFC have only won one of their last eight away games in MLS.

Key Player: Gilberto – The Brazilian forward hasn’t always been the most reliable striker during his time in MLS, but he enters 2016 off the back of a good preseason campaign and will hope to fire Chicago to victory in an important season opener on Sunday. A goal for him in the opening game could set the tone for a productive season.

Photo: MLSsoccer.com

Photo: MLSsoccer.com

Score Prediction

Chicago Fire 1-1 NYCFC – This is expected to be one of the tightest games on the opening weekend of the new season. Both sides have impressed during preseason and will look to get off to the perfect start in what is a key Eastern Conference clash. However, they are likely to cancel each other out and so a score draw looks set to unfold.

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Toronto’s Gilberto to join Vasco da Gama on loan until end of season – report

Toronto FC striker Gilberto has not returned to preseason training with the Reds as of yet and his absence could be extended to at least the end of the season as Brazilian club Vasco da Gama are close to securing a season-long loan deal, according to GloboEsporte.com.

Gilberto was one of the three Designated Players signed by Toronto last year as he joined the Canadian club along with Michael Bradley and Jermain Defoe.

But just one year later things look a lot different as Defoe has moved back to England and the Reds have splashed the cash again to bring in Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco, leaving them with four DPs.

Major League Soccer’s roster regulations state that a club can only have three registered DPs and so Toronto will have known that one of their four stars was going to have to leave before the start of 2015 season next month.

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Of those four players Gilberto was always going to be the one to have to move and he is now set to join Vasco da Gama, the club he has been training with for the past month, on loan for the rest of the season with a the option to buy.

The report claims the deal is set to be agreed by Tuesday and Gilberto may never return to Toronto if he can impress back in his homeland, though the Reds are unlikely to be planning on a return for the 25-year-old anyway.

The Brazilian forward will take a pay cut to join Vasco da Gama but the Rio de Janeiro based club will pay all of his wages so Toronto will have no financial attachment to the loan move.

Gilberto scored seven goals with five assists in his first season in MLS.

Toronto FC sign defenders Perquis and Zavaleta, Gilberto set to leave

It’s been another busy day for Toronto FC. The Canadian-based MLS side have confirmed that they have signed centre-back’s Damien Perquis and Eriq Zavaleta but Brazilian DP Gilberto looks set to leave.

Gilberto is one of four Designated Players on the Toronto FC roster as it stands, and he is not as important to the team as the any of the other three – Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco.

Regardless of whether the new collective bargaining agreement see’s the addition of a fourth DP slot, Gilberto is set to go imminently, and the Brazilian forward has not returned to Toronto for preseason training, as reported by the Toronto Sun.

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The club are looking to sell the 25-year-old, who scored seven goals with five assists in 2014, and supposedly have offers on the table for his services, with the player still in his native Brazil.

But the club have continued to bring names in and they have addressed last years defensive issues by signing French-born Polish centre-back Damien Perquis and the versatile Eriq Zavaleta in a trade with the Seattle Sounders.

Perquis, 30, is a major coup as he joins from Spanish club Real Betis, where he played for two-and-a-half years before cancelling his contract in order to force the move to Toronto FC.

“Damien’s signing addresses an area we wanted to improve upon this offseason,” Toronto FC GM Tim Bezbatchenko said in a club statement. “His experience and leadership both at club and international level will be a welcomed addition to our team.

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“Damien has a great defensive sense and will provide an upside on the ball with his strong distribution from the back. We are very excited to bring him to Toronto FC.”

Another defensive addition arrives in Canada in the shape of 22-year-old Eriq Zavaleta, who can play at centre-back or as a striker.

Zavaleta joins in a trade with the Seattle Sounders that saw Toronto give up a second-round pick in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft, in order to acquire the versatile youngster’s rights.

The American made five appearances in Seattle before spending the 2014 season on loan at Chivas USA, where he made 17 appearances, 15 of those as a starter.

Is Gilberto’s time with Toronto up? How good is the signing of Damien Perquis for Toronto FC?

Toronto FC set to confirm Sebastian Giovinco signing

Juventus playmaker Sebastian Giovinco will be confirmed as Toronto FC‘s latest signing when he’s unveiled in the next few days, according to Sportsnet.ca.

Toronto have been linked with Giovinco for some time and they have now won the race to sign the talented Italian ahead of some of Europe’s top clubs.

Arsenal, Tottenham, AS Monaco and others have all been linked but Giovinco has chosen MLS and Toronto as his next destination because he has been offered a “truckload of money”.

The money he is being offered by Toronto is believed to be in the region of $6 million per year – an amount that will make him one of the highest earners in the league.

At 27, Giovinco is a major capture for Major League Soccer and Toronto will be hoping for big things in 2015 with a player of his calibre on their side.

Jozy Altidore replaced the outgoing Jermain Defoe on Friday, and the club currently have three Designated Players in Altidore, Michael Bradley and Gilberto.

One of those will have to leave the club to accommodate Giovinco, and it is most likely to be Gilberto, though the Italian won’t be joining until the summer when he finishes his final season with Juventus in Serie A.

The league are currently negotiating the latest collective bargaining agreement with the players’ union and that could see the number of DP slots allowed on one team to four, but that remains to be seen.

He is in the final six months of his contract and so won’t require a transfer fee to move to Canada but if the deal is confirmed, as expected now on Monday or Tuesday, Toronto will suddenly have one of the most frightening attacking forces in MLS.

How good a signing will Sebastian Giovinco be for Toronto FC?

Preview and Prediction: New England Revolution vs Toronto FC

Toronto’s disappointing season is over as far as playoff hopes go, but they travel to an in-form New England on Saturday night looking to end the campaign on a high.

The Revs come into the game off the back of a good away win against Houston Dynamo last Thursday, they wrapped up a second place finish in the Eastern Conference with that result.

More would have been expected at the start of the season from Toronto and they will be disappointed with their season, as they struggled to ever find a good run of form.

The Revs have only lost one in their last nine all competitions and have been reaping the rewards in terms of their position in the table.

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Lee Nguyen, a challenger for the MVP award, has been excellent and his confidence has been sky high. Without his astonishing 17 goals from midfield, New England would not be second in the table.

Toronto need to have a strong finish to the season and reassess for next term, but they will be without Jermain Defoe once again, a situation they may have to get used to as his future is very much up in the air.

Dominic Oduro’s two goals in 23 games is far from satisfactory for a player with the potential he has, while Gilberto will have expected to score more than seven in his first season in MLS.

Key Player: Lee Nguyen – We’re running out of superlatives to describe the midfielder and he will be heavily involved in the game once again.

Key stat: Toronto have failed to keep a clean sheet in five, so we can expect goals.

New England Revolution Last 5: L/W/W/D/W

Toronto Last 5: W/L/L/L/D

Prediction: New England Revolution 2-1 Toronto

Takeaways from Toronto’s 2-2 draw at Red Bull Arena

MLS is back after a two week break for the World Cup, and Toronto FC visited the New York Red Bulls on Friday night in an exciting game where the Canadian side were robbed of three points in injury time.

It was game that was made a spectacle by designated players, as there was a DP in every goal of the night. Even Gilberto bagged a goal, and he will take confidence from finally ending his goal drought.

We take a look at what we can take away from the score draw:

1. Is Jermain Defoe Roy Hodgson’s greatest omission?

Being left out of the England World Cup squad would have disappointed him immensely, especially because in hindsight, England lacked a world class finisher in Brazil.

However, Defoe was straight back to business on Friday night as he netted his eighth goal in nine games this season with cracking finish on the run.

2. Thierry Henry – will he ever lose it?

‘Form is temporary, class is permanent’ could not describe this man better.

Having only joined up with the squad on Monday after working as a pundit for the BBC at the World Cup, Henry looked more than comfortable in his side’s return to action.

The respect opposition defenders give him, allows him to dictate play even in the final third. His contribution is priceless to New York.

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3. Gilberto can score!

It took him ten appearances, but it was more than worth the wait, as Gilberto opened his MLS account with a free kick to be remembered. If you haven’t seen it, you need to.

He has lacked energy and hunger since his move stateside, but Friday night was a vast improvement.

Coming off the bench to score clearly shows there is something there; he just has to replicate it on a regular basis from now.

Highlights via MLS on YouTube:

 

Could Juventus front man Quagliarella now make the move to the MLS?

With competition for strikers at recently crowned Serie A Champions Juventus at a high, Fabio Quagliarella could be first on the list that would be allowed to leave the club this summer, with a move to MLS potentially on the cards.

He was first linked back in October of last year, with reports suggesting Toronto were a potential suitor for the former Udinese striker.

With negotiations on contracts proving hard to come by at the Old Lady, Quagliarella seems likely to be leaving this summer, so that Juventus could get a sum of money for him rather than waiting for him to leave on a free next year.

But it would appear that more than one party are interested in the striker, as Lazio are keen to keep the player in Italy with a move from Turin to Rome.

With three Serie A medals to his name, a player of his calibre could be just what some teams need in MLS, bringing his experience and clinical finishing to the league.

(Photo: Quagliarella could score plenty of goals in MLS)

In October his agent Beppe Bozzo confirmed he could be out the door: “It’s true Toronto FC have expressed an interest in him, as well as a number of MLS clubs,” Bozzo told Tuttosport.

Speculation about his departure increased in January when he was out of the Europa League squad as his place was taken by January loan-signing Pablo Osvaldo.

There are currently no designated player spots available at Toronto, though Gilberto is under increasing pressure to get the goals, and with Luke Moore now added to the roster time looks to be running out for the Brazilian forward.

Could Quagliarella be another piece in the Toronto FC puzzle as they strive towards making the playoffs for the first time ever?

5 Takeaways from Toronto FC’s important victory against New York Red Bulls

Toronto FC got a crucial 2-0 win against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday night, as the Red Bulls fall to their second consecutive loss. It is the first time Toronto have beaten New York in 11 attempts. Here are our takeaways from a key game in Major League Soccer.

 

1. Jermain Defoe is still as deadly as ever!

The England international showed yet again why he is still a world-class finisher with his goal at BMO field, as he let the ball run across his body before smashing it into the top corner.

The ex-Spurs striker will be pleased with his performance, and many will once again question his exclusion from England’s World Cup squad.

One thing that’s for sure is that Toronto will benefit from England’s loss.

 

2. Gilberto is a waste of a designated player.

The Brazilian currently fills one of the three designated player slots the Reds are allowed, and it is bewildering as to why, as he hasn’t scored a goal this season.

In his seven appearances this season he has only one assist to his name, and with Luke Moore opening his account on his MLS debut for Toronto last night, time is ticking for Gilberto.

More pressing matters for Toronto are the rumoured returns to MLS for Brek Shea and DaMarcus Beasley. Surely, they would want to challenge other franchises for those signatures, with the ambition they have shown over the past six months?

 

3. Toronto has more depth than it seems.

With Michael Bradley absent with the USMNT, the Reds went with on-loan Blackburn right-back, Bradley Orr, in the middle of the park.

What was more surprising than his position on the pitch was that he played a perfect pass to set-up Defoe’s goal, quickly calming any Toronto supporters nerves about how they would cope without Bradley.

And of course they have recently acquired Collen Warner from Montreal Impact, who also plays in the centre of midfield.

Deputising for the flu-ridden Julio Cesar, Joe Bendik started in goal once again, and kept a clean sheet against a strike force, which has produced twelve goals this season.

 

4. Bradley Wright-Phillips is human.

Coming off his second hat trick of the season against Chicago Fire, BWP couldn’t carry his form into last night.

The Red Bulls failed time after time to break down Toronto, and it was an hour before BWP had a decent chance.

And It was a sitter! But the former Charlton forward put it straight over the bar from six-yards.

Just a minor blip in his season? We shall see as the weeks progress.

 

5. New York doesn’t like the road.

The Red Bulls have only won one game away from home this season. Just let that sink in!

A team that boasts talents such as Bradley Wright-Phillips, Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill and Lloyd Sam has won only one game away all season.

On paper they are arguably the best team in the league, but struggle to use their dominance in possession to its full advantage.

Last night marked the second time they have failed to score away from home this campaign, and although they usually seem to have no problem scoring, they are desperate for a solid center-half. Rio Ferdinand anybody?

The philosophy is perfect: dominate possession and use your width in attack to stretch the opposition in order to create holes centrally. However, with Cahill missing through the World Cup, they have lost their playmaker, and catalyst in the final third.

Tough times appear to be ahead for New York if they don’t bring in a decent defender.