Preview: New York Red Bulls vs. Toronto FC

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by MARK FISHKIN
STAFF WRITER

After completing the season sweep of their Hudson River rivals, the Red Bulls continue their three-game homestand versus Eastern Conference contenders Toronto FC.

New York has a tough assignment: shutting down MLS points leader Sebastian Giovinco (16G/11A) who looks to be a shoe-in for league MVP. Facing Giovinco would be tough enough for a healthy, full squad, but the Red Bulls will meet Toronto without suspended Damien Perrinelle or the injured Kemar Lawrence.

Can an undermanned New York hold against the league’s top attacker?


 

Match Information:

Saturday, August 15th at Red Bull Arena: 7:00p ET kickoff
TV/Streaming: MSG/MSG GO (for Optimum subscribers)
Audio: Red Bulls Radio: www.newyorkredbulls.com/matchday/radio
Referee: Baldomero Toledo

Record, GF/GA, Division and League Position, Recent Form:
New York Red Bulls, 36 points from 22 matches, 35 GF/25 GA, 2nd in the East, t-6th in MLS, WWWDW
Toronto FC, 31 points from 22 matches, 37 GF/38 GA, t-4th in the East, t-10th in MLS, WDLWL


 

The Red Bulls’ front line vs. the TFC defense:
Bradley Wright-Phillips vs. Ashtone Morgan, Ahmed Kantari, Eriq Zavaleta, and Jackson (and Joe Bendik)

New York’s younger Wright-Phillips (10G/6A) is currently sixth on the league scoring chart, and has four goals and an assist over the Red Bulls’ last five matches. BWP had a goal and an assist in the clubs’ last meeting, a 3-1 New York win last October in Toronto.  The TFC defense is overjoyed about the team’s scoring prowess. The Reds concede more than two goals per road match this season. Jackson in the biggest name on the TFC backline, currently in his sixth season in the league. Zavaleta is a 23-year-old from Indiana who has bounced from Seattle to Chivas to TFC over the last three seasons. Frenchman Kantari was just signed by Toronto in late July from RC Lens of Ligue 1. He’s made three appearances to date. Ashtone Morgan is a Canadian international who has appeared 84 times for the Reds. Bendik’s 2.0 GAA won’t strike terror into the hearts of the New York attach.

Advantage: New York


 

The Toronto attack vs. the Red Bull defense:
Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore vs. Anthony Wallace, Karl Ouimette, Young Matt Miazga, and Connor Lade (and Luis Robles)

Giovinco is playing on another level from the rest of his teammates, and his opponents. The Italian is lethal on set pieces, and his speed and mobility often makes defenders look silly. Altidore (25 goals for the Red Bulls over the 06-08 seasons) will play in Red Bull Arena for the first time on Saturday.  Born in Livingston, NJ, Jozy (7G in 2015) has scored only once in his last five appearances. The undermanned New York defense will employ second-choice players in three of the four positions. Matt Miazga, so effective against David Villa this season, will be focused on managing Giovinco. Ouimette (9 caps) will have to step up against the stand-up Altidore. Wallace held down the fort admirably during Lawrence’s Gold Cup absence (New York won all three matches). Lade improves over the course of each match. Robles is now tied with Tony Meola atop New York’s all-time league shutout list.

Advantage: Toronto


 

The Midfields:
Mike Grella, Felipe, Dax McCarty, Sacha Kljestan, and Lloyd Sam vs. Jonathan Osorio, Michael Bradley, Collen Warner, and Marco Delgado

The stellar play of Mike Grella and Lloyd Sam is creating a pleasant challenge for Jesse Marsch, namely how to incorporate summer signings Shaun Wright-Phillips and Gonzalo Veron.  While SWP may remain a super-sub, Veron will surely push for a starter role down the stretch.  If there’s any player that can manage New York’s high press, it’s Michael Bradley (3G/3A), who scored TFC’s lone goal in the club’s home loss to SKC.  Warner’s two goals and two assists mark his high over his seven-year MLS career.  Osorio (1G/4A) scored against New York last season. Delgado (2G/2A) is a former Chivas homegrown player who moved to Toronto in the dispersal draft. Delgado made his debut for the Goats at age 17 in 2012.

Advantage: New York


 

The Coaches:
Jesse Marsch continues to drive his team towards the top of the league.  His challenge on Saturday not only be managing the inevitable let down from the passion of a derby win but also defending against the league’s top scoring threat with his reserves. Greg Vanney, thanks to some major spending by ownership, has as high-paid and talented an attacking threesome as anyone in the league.  Vanney has his team in playoff position, and TFC should make its first postseason this year.  Still, he’s yet to find the formula on defense, which should give Reds fans pause.

Advantage: New York


Intangibles:

The Red Bulls are 8-1-1 all-time versus Toronto at home since the Reds joined the league in 2007, and New York is 5-0-1 against TFC at Red Bull Arena. On the current roster, only BWP (2) and McCarty (1) have scored against Toronto.  A win by New York would lift the Red Bulls eight points over TFC, with 11 matches to play for both clubs. The forecast will be hot, with temps dropping through the mid-eighties at kickoff.  The crowd size will be a question mark. The Red Bulls have averaged 19,347 over two Saturday night home matches this season. Hopefully the return of Jersey boys Bradley and Altidore will attract a large and lively crowd.

Advantage: New York


Prediction:
If Toronto’s attacking triumvirate is clicking, New York will have a very long night.  The key matchup will be McCarty and Felipe against Bradley, and even if the New York boys can throttle the Toronto captain, Giovinco can still sting.  I see a brace by the Toronto MVP candidate and New York goals from Sam and BWP in a very entertaining 2-2 draw.