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Toronto FC-Fire Preview
By SANTOSH VENKATARAMAN
(AP) -- The Chicago Fire could be ready to debut their newest designated players.
Alvaro Fernandez and Sherjill MacDonald could play their first games for the Fire on Saturday night at home against last-place Toronto FC, which expects Eric Hassli to debut for them.
Chicago (9-7-5) has added two designated players in less than a week, acquiring Fernandez from Seattle last Friday and signing MacDonald on July 24.
Fernandez scored nine goals for Seattle last season before seeing his playing time diminish in 2012. The midfielder's first practice with the Fire was Tuesday.
"In Seattle I was played on the left even though I'm a right-sided midfielder," Fernandez told the Fire's official website. "I feel comfortable in all four of the midfield positions so where they want to put me, I'll do my best."
MacDonald is a Dutch forward who will make his MLS debut after joining from Belgian club Beerschot AC. He has also played in Germany, England and his native country.
"Every day is getting much better, I see that I am getting used to my teammates and also my form is slowly coming back," MacDonald said.
The Fire have never lost at home to Toronto FC (5-12-4), earning two wins and three draws. Three Chicago players scored in a 3-2 road victory the last time these teams met April 21.
Toronto has made numerous changes since then, and Hassli should play Saturday. The French striker was acquired from Vancouver on July 20.
Hassli has been out since suffering an ankle injury in a July 14 game at Chicago, and Toyota Park is ironically expected to be the setting for his return.
"We have to re-evaluate the way they're going to play with Eric," Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson said. "Eric's a good player. Fortunately he's played before with Vancouver and we know what Eric can do."
Toronto had its three-game MLS win streak end with a 2-0 defeat to Houston last Saturday. TFC then cruised to a 5-1 victory over El Salvador club Aguila in a CONCACAF Champions League game Wednesday.
Reggie Lambe scored twice after not being much of a factor in MLS play, with his only two goals coming in the first matchup with the Fire.
Ryan Johnson - who leads TFC outfield players in minutes - Luis Silva and Terry Dunfield had the other goals.
"Going into Chicago, it's a big game for us, and this helps everybody," Ryan Johnson told TFC's official website. "We had a lot of opportunities in the offensive area and this will make us more comfortable on Saturday when we're in those positions."
Wednesday's result caught the attention of the Fire, who are in fifth place in the Eastern Conference with 32 points. Chicago, 6-2-2 at home, is expecting a difficult game Saturday.
"It's definitely a tougher team than we've played against in the beginning," midfielder Gonzalo Segares said. "So we've got to be ready, physically and mentally it's going to be a hard game."
Updated August 3, 2012