Preview: New York Red Bulls at Toronto FC

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by MARK FISHKIN

Having won five of their last seven matches, New York hits the road for the first time in three weeks with an opportunity to wrap up the Eastern Conference and edge closer to the Supporters Shield.

Having beaten Toronto FC at home in August — and with the Reds missing two of their three Designated Players — the Red Bulls will surely play the favorite on Wednesday night.

Can New York avoid the trap and get the job done?


Match Information:

Wednesday, October 14th at BMO Field, 7:00p ET kickoff

TV/Streaming: MSG/MSG GO (Optimum subscribers)

Audio: http://www.newyorkredbulls.com/matchday/radio

Referee: Fotis Bazakos

Record, GF/GA, Division and League Position, Recent Form:

Toronto: 46 points from 31 matches, 55 GF/53 GA, 5th in the East, 10th in MLS, LLWWW

New York: 54 points from 31 matches, 55 GF/39 GA, 1st in the East, 1st in MLS, LWLWW


Toronto’s front line vs. the Red Bulls’ defense

Luke Moore and Herculez Gomez vs. Kemar Lawrence, Ronald Zubar, Damien Perrinelle, and Connor Lade (and Luis Robles)

Without Giovinco (away with the Azzurri) and Altidore (with the US on Tuesday), Toronto will be missing the scorers of 33 of their 55 2015 goals.  Luke Moore (1G/3A) has started only six matches this season, and has played a grand total of 38 minutes since September 13th.  Similarly, Herculez Gomez (0G/0A), who joined the club in August after five years in Liga MX, has played in four matches for the Reds, all losses.  Save a penalty at Red Bull Arena last week, New York managed Montreal’s Didier Drogba very well. The Red Bulls shut out Giovinco and Toronto three-nil in mid-August. With lesser lights to defend on Wednesday, New York surely will have an advantage. Lawrence should return to the starting lineup, shifting Connor Lade to the right and Sal Zizzo to the bench.  Zubar and Perrinelle will combine once again in the center, with little cover as Matt Miazga is with the US (and suspended) and Karl Ouimette will play for Canada Tuesday night in Washington, DC. MLS Save of the Week winner Luis Robles hasn’t posted a shutout since September 20th in Portland, four matches ago.

Advantage: New York


New York’s attack vs. the Reds’ defense:
Bradley Wright-Phillips vs. Justin Morrow, Damien Perquis, Josh Williams, and Jackson (and Chris Konopka)

Bradley Wright-Phillips seemed snake-bitten against Montreal, hitting the post on a drive that would have killed the match, and out of snyc with his midfielders. BWP has only a single goal and no assists over New York’s last five matches (3-2-0).  Toronto hasn’t posted a shutout since August when the Reds shutout Orlando at home, five-nil. Recently, TFC has allowed one to Colorado, two to Chicago, and one to Philadelphia, all wins.  Both Morrow (2G/2A) and Williams (0G/0A) played in New York’s win over TFC in August. Perquis (1G/1A) spent three seasons at Real Betis in Spain’s Segunda Division before signing with Toronto in January. Jackson (1G/1A) last picked up a point with an assist in the Reds’ four-four draw in the Bronx on July 12th. Chris Konopka has made 19 of his 21 MLS appearances this season, posting a 10-6-3 record with four shutouts. Konopka played one match for the Red Bulls in 2011. Toronto’s 53 goals conceded is next to worst in MLS this year.

Slight Advantage: New York


The Midfields:
Collen Warner, Benoit Cheyrou, Michael Bradley, and Jonathan Osorio vs. Mike Grella, Dax McCarty, Sasha Kljestan, Felipe and Gonzalo Veron

TFC Coach Greg Vanney will employ most of the same diamond midfield that delivered only 39.8% possession against New York in August. The lone different is the addition of Osorio (1G/6A), who scored in New York’s win over Toronto last October. Bradley (5G/6A) will be five days from playing an exhausting 120 minutes against Mexico. Warner (2G/2A) has taken only fourteen shots over 26 matches this year. Cheyrou (1G/7A), who joined TFC from Olympique Marseille in the off-season, plays at the bottom of the Reds’ diamond. With Lloyd Sam getting meaningful minutes in his Ghana debut on Tuesday, Veron should get another start. The Argentinean will look to improve on his last performance, in which he was berated by Kljestan for failing to see him at the top of the box in injury time.  Felipe took a knock against the Impact but should be ready to go in Toronto. Grella and Kljestan had assists in New York’s August win against TFC. McCarty will make his 30th start of the season for New York.

Advantage: New York


The Coaches:

Greg Vanney’s squad has racked up three straight victories all at home, albeit against the bottom three clubs in MLS. TFC will, barring a massive collapse, make the playoffs for the first time in club history. However, a 14-13-4 record from a team with so much talent is less than impressive.  Jesse Marsch has only FC Dallas’ Oscar Pareja as a contender for Coach of the year in MLS.

Advantage: New York


Intangibles:

New York is 12-5-5 all-time against TFC, and boasts a competitive 3-4-4 record against the Reds north of the border. Bradley Wright-Phillips leads active Red Bulls with three goals all-time goals against TFC. The Red Bulls are a 2-0-1 run in the series, though all three of those matches too place at RBA. Toronto will clinch its first playoff berth in club history with a draw or win on Wednesday.  TFC scores 2.1 goals per game at home this season (albeit with Giovinco and Bradley) and the Red Bulls score 1.6 goals per road contest. TFC concedes 1.3 goals per home match, New York concedes 1.5 times away from Red Bull Arena.  New York outshot the Reds 17 to eight at Red Bull Arena on August 15th. Toronto is a perfect 10-0-0 when scoring first. Weather conditions at kickoff should be mostly cloudy skies and 51 degrees. Should New York beat Toronto, and Dallas lose or draw Wednesday at home to Vancouver and at Salt Lake on Saturday, New York will take the field on Sunday against Philadelphia with the Shield already in the bag.

Advantage: New York


Prediction:

Given the dominating performance that the Red Bulls put on Toronto in Harrison this summer, and with TFC’s absences, it’s difficult to see the Reds giving New York much trouble. However, the Red Bulls have been susceptible to trap games before (see: Orlando, Chicago) and will have to be wary of Bradley and Toronto’s unsung heroes. TFC will give New York a match, but the Red Bulls will prevail 2-1, and prep for Sunday’s home match knowing a second Shield is nearly a reality.