Four matches in September and four in October are all that remain on the Chicago Fire’s 2016 regular season schedule, starting Saturday night at home against Toronto FC (7:30 p.m. CT | TICKETS). The atmosphere in Toyota Park promises to be buzzing for a much-anticipated visit by the Canadian club, and -- with the number 10 top of mind during the club’s ongoing “10 For 10” renewal campaign -- below are 10 reasons to come out and be part of the action:
1. The Men In Red have found a groove on their home pitch and enter the weekend unbeaten in 12 consecutive outings at Toyota Park (MLS and U.S. Open Cup), having not lost at home since April 16. Veljko Paunovic and his side are surely looking forward to another chance to feed off the home crowd’s energy.
2. Both sides will welcome the return of a few marquee names back into their lineup, beginning with the well-traveled David Accam. The Ghanaian international missed Chicago's 3-0 win last week while earning a pair of caps for Ghana, but is fresh off a return trip to Chicago and is likely to play a role in the action Saturday. The same is true of both Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore, who’ll return to Toronto FC after productive appearances in the U.S. Men’s National Team’s recent World Cup qualifiers. The Reds could also see the return of veteran GK Clint Irwin, who has returned to full training after missing the last 12 MLS matches due to injury.
As for the number 10 jerseys on both sides, it's one in and one out for the Fire and TFC. Reigning league MVP Sebastian Giovinco is on the shelf with an injury for the visitors, while newcomer David Arshakyan will be available for selection after missing last match while earning his first cap for the Armenian national team.
3. Saturday marks the annual featured match for the Passback Program, an initiative spearheaded by the Chicago Fire Foundation, the U.S. Soccer Foundation and Soccer.com. Fans are encouraged to bring with them new and gently used soccer equipment -- including uniforms, shin guards, goalie gloves, cleats, cones and balls -- for donation to youth soccer programs. Look for the designated Passback bin inside Fire Fest and help share the beautiful game with the Chicagoland community!
4. While you’re in Fire Fest, look for our friends from Riot Fest, who will be doing ticket drawings and other giveaways for the upcoming music festival in Douglas Park (Sept. 16-18). For more info on this year’s edition of Riot Fest, visit Chicago.RiotFest.org.
5. Just a few days into the 10-day timeframe when new and returning Season Ticket Holders can save 10 percent off their 2017 ticket packages, Saturday’s game is a great time to speak in person with a Chicago Fire ticket representative. Stop by Season Ticket Headquarters on the concourse behind Section 124 to learn about the great benefits of being part of the club and how to take advantage of the limited time “10 For 10” offer.
6. Everyone loves a Saturday night, and this match has the distinction of being Chicago's final home Saturday night match of the 2016 regular season. With the carefree days of summer becoming a fleeting memory, it only makes sense to come out and make the most of a final Saturday primetime fixture.
7. In addition to Fire Fest, there’s another pregame stop to make after parking lots open at 4:30 p.m. Swing by the grass training field at the northwest corner of the facility to watch members of Section 8 Chicago square off against the Chicago chapter of American Outlaws in a supporters friendly soccer match. Kickoff is set for 4:45 p.m. in a game that's sure to entertain.
8. Moving back to the pros, the Fire have shown an attacking flair of late that’s kept spectators on the edge of their seats. Chicago has scored multiple goals in six of its last seven outings after having only two such outputs over the first 19 matches of 2016. Newcomer Luis Solignac has brought a spark to the forward line since his acquisition from Colorado on Aug. 3, while midfielder Arturo Alvarez has contributed a goal or assist in four of his last five matches.
9. Keeping with the theme, the number 10 makes two more appearances in the relevant storylines to Saturday’s match. For one, the Fire have hosted Toronto FC at Toyota Park on 10 previous occasions and have gotten a result in every game (5-0-5). On the individual side, David Accam’s next goal will move him into a tie for 10th on Chicago’s career goals list (all competitions) with 23; Jesse Marsch, Nate Jaqua and Andy Herron all ended their Fire tenures with 23 total goals.
10. Lastly, consider Saturday night a preview of the late-season drama that lies ahead in Major League Soccer. The next time Chicago and Toronto FC square off will be in Toronto on the final day of the regular season (Sunday, Oct. 23), otherwise known as Decision Day, when final playoff participants and positioning are decided. With TFC eyeing the No. 1 spot in the east and the Fire maintaining postseason aspirations, expect both sides to lay it all on the line in search of three points Saturday.