Toronto FC vs New York Red Bulls: Will It Be Fun & Games On The Jersey Shore?
Toronto FC v New York Red Bulls ~ May 19th ~ 730pm ET ~ Red Bull Arena ~ TSN2
Top of the league, six wins in a row, one of the lowest goals against in MLS and the best road record of any team – pretty nice eh? Oh and only one loss so far as well – really nice then. No you don’t win the season based on results in May, but there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the team’s success – or hoping and even expecting more. TFC are in a position to solidify their hold on the Supporters Shield – especially with some favourable results from Wednesday night’s games; continuing on their winning ways would also see them approach the league record for wins in a row.
First in their way of winning seven in a row are the New Jersey Energy Drinks, a team with whom Toronto FC have had a long, frustrating history. Even more frustrating (no I don’t mean not THAT game), is their record at Red Bull Arena; they’ve only won twice in Jersey while losing ten – joyous. Away games are never easy, even with the best road record in the league.
However in TFC’s favour is the current form of the energy drinks – they’ve lost their last three games, including their most recent home game (to the woeful Galaxy), which ended a nineteen game home unbeaten streak. Their most potent scoring weapon the past two seasons (Bradley Wright-Phillips), hasn’t exactly been lighting it up so far this year, yes he’s their top scorer but he’s only scored four goals (the team only has twelve total on the season) – so huzzah! Also I should mention that Duncan’s favourite pantomime villain Aurelien Collin is likely out with an abdominal strain – again, good news for TFC.
Now Toronto are facing their own struggles with the loss of Sebastian Giovinco, Nick Hagglund and Jonathan Osorio – all are out with a variety of issues, as well as different timelines for their expected return. The team has managed to get two of their last three wins without Seba – and closed out last Saturday’s game without him – but it’s always daunting to be without one of your best players regardless of how well your team is doing.
The bigger loss at the moment is that of Hagglund; he’s very ably stepped up in Drew Moor’s absence and led the backline through various combinations and situations – with the torn MCL he’s out until sometime in August. The good news side of that is Drew Moor is about to make his return (he’s travelled with the team and will likely play), but it’s tough to see a player derailed in the midst of a truly excellent season. As for Oso, they’re still monitoring the issue with his heart and it’s doubtful he plays this weekend.
So the loss of Hagglund is covered by the return of Drew Moor, the loss of Seba means that coach Greg Vanney will have to make some decisions about the attacking players – does he go with Tosaint Ricketts and Jozy Altidore together, or go with a single striker as he’s done more than once of late? Hey maybe Jordan Hamilton will get some minutes! Vanney has the majority of his midfielders available (including Tsubasa Endoh who travelled with the team), so there’s a world of choice in that regard – I would expect Victor Vazquez, Marky Delgado and Michael Bradley all to start – though adding in the steady and calming influence of Benoit Cheyrou is a possibility if Vanney chooses to go with a more defensive posture. Hopefully the Armando Cooper as rightback experiment is over and we see Steven Beitashour on the backline; Cooper can add to games but his last appearance wasn’t his strongest – besides having him on the pitch at the same time as Felipe is likely a recipe for disaster, or red cards.
TFC are in a position to continue on their winning ways if they are mindful of Sacha Kljestan and Wright-Phillips, they are the two most dynamic and worrisome players for the Red Bulls. Toronto have speed on their side and if they use the wings to their advantage (looking at you Raheem Edwards), they’ll be in a good position to harass Luis Robles who’s been anything but solid of late. There aren’t many teams in MLS that Toronto doesn’t match up well against right now, even with injuries, add in almost a full week of rest for the first time in almost a month and TFC are in a good position to go into New Jersey and steal some points. Having said all that I was a bit cautious on this week’s podcast, and called for a draw – I’ll stick with that and hope to be pleasantly surprised.