Preview: New York Red Bulls v Toronto FC

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by MARK FISHKIN
Staff Writer

After posting its sixth straight home win, a depleted New York squad will take on a desperate Toronto team facing its last realistic shot at making the postseason.

The Red Bulls playoff futures are looking bright, but a suspension to Peguy Luyindula and national team duty removing Roy Miller, Tim Cahill, Ambroise Oyongo and Matt Miazga from the lineup means that Mike Petke will have to shuffle his roster in order to continue the playoff push.

The Red Bulls can clinch a playoff berth tomorrow with a win and a Houston loss or draw; a situation much improved since the team was blown out in LA just two weeks ago.


 

Match Information:
Saturday, October 11th at Red Bull Arena, 7:00p ET kickoff, TV/Streaming: Live on Univision Deportes and MLSSoccer.com, tape delayed on MSG at 10:30p

Referee: Hilario Grajeda

Record, GF/GA, Division and League Position, Recent Form:
New York, 44 points from 31 matches, 49GF/46GA, 4th in the East, 9th in MLS, WDWLW
Toronto, 40 points from 31 matches, 42GF/49GA, 6th in the East, 12th in MLS, DWWLL


 

New York’s front line vs. the TFC defense:
Bradley Wright-Phillips and Thierry Henry vs. Justin Morrow, Nick Hagglund, Steven Caldwell, and Mark Bloom (and Joe Bendik).

BWP hasn’t scored in his last two matches, which amazingly matches his longest goal drought since the Englishman failed to score in six straight games earlier this spring.  Against Houston last week, Wright-Phillips had a few decent chances (much like the LA match), but was unable to convert.  With Luyindula’s suspension, Petke moves back to the 4-4-2 and Henry moves back up top.  Wednesday night at BMO Field, TFC allowed Houston only six shots on frame, but Giles Barnes was able to score, giving the Dynamo the win.  Left back Morrow has only two assists to his account this season after coming over from San Jose. Xavier product Hagglund (2G/3A) was TFC’s first round draft pick this season and has appeared in 24 matches during his rookie season. Bloom (1A)  is a US soccer pyramid success story, having played for the Charlotte Eagles of the USL Pro and Atlanta Silverbacks before joining TFC last season. Bendik has allowed nine goals over his last six matches, with a single shutout to Chivas, so, you know.

Advantage: New York


 

Toronto’s attackers vs. the Red Bulls’ defense:
Jermaine Defoe and Luke Moore  vs. Armando, Ibrahim Sekagya, Jamison Olave and Richard Eckersley (and Luis Robles).

Jermaine Defoe had a penalty kick saved and missed a wide open net in the waning moments against Houston on Wednesday, blowing two amazing chances to boost TFC’s playoff hopes.  After a September off from injury, and despite his 11 goals this season, it’s hard to label Defoe’s stay in MLS a success.  However, the Englishman has scored in both TFC meetings with New York this season. Moore has only scored once in last 9 appearances for Toronto. That’s not good.  Dom Oduro (2G/5A) will likely come off the bench to test New York’s defense late. With Miller away and Duvall shelved for the moment, Armando and Eckersley will once again figure in New York’s back line. The return of Olave provides a major boost for the Red Bulls, though New York shut out Houston last week without him.  Eckersley has to be commended for his play, given the former Toronto man hadn’t seen the field in the Red Bulls’ last 26 league matches.  Robles had to make five saves last week to pick up his fifth shutout of the season, and his second clean sheet in his last five matches.

Slight Advantage: New York


The Midfields:
Ruben Bover, Eric Alexander, Dax McCarty, and Lloyd Sam v Jonathan Osorio, Kyle Bekker, Michael Bradley, and Jackson.

Without Luyindula, Eric Alexander moves up to play center mid, and Ruben Bover takes over on the left.  Alexander has quietly been having a super season, with two goals and a career-high eight assists. He’ll be called on to distribute and create.  Bover is clearly where Toronto will attack, and considering Armando will be playing behind the Spaniard, TFC may find success there. Look for the majority of New York’s play to be down the right side, as Sam has the speed to get past Osorio with relative ease.  Bekker has yet to pick up a point from his defensive  midfield position.  Bradley’s first season in Toronto (2G/3A in 23 appearances) has been a bust, though the USMNT star will be eager to play well against his original MLS club.  Osorio (2G/4A) hasn’t been much better for TFC.  Collen Warner may come in off the bench to attempt to provide a late spark.  The former Impact player has picked up two assists since joining Toronto this spring.  Jackson (4G/1A) has matched his career-high goal scoring mark, set while playing for Dallas.

Advantage: Even


The Coaches:

Mike Petke is getting the results he needs down the stretch, and was able to get a solid result last week despite the club sale and Cahill turmoil going on.  With so many first-team players either away, suspended, or injured, New York’s coach has to figure out the best lineup to continue the Red Bulls strong play (6-3-1 in last ten MLS matches) at home (7-0-2 at RBA since May).  Greg Vanney is Toronto’s ninth coach in the club’s eight –year existence in the league. Taking over for Ryan Nelsen on August 31st, the MLS veteran had his team unbeaten in three matches before falling at Los Angeles and Wednesday at home against Houston.

Advantage: New York


Intangibles:

New York is 7-1-1 versus Toronto at home, with the draw coming on June 27th when BWP scored in the 93rd minute to salvage a 2-2 result.  The loss came back in 2008.  Saturday is surely Toronto’s last gasp at a playoff spot, but the team will have just played on Wednesday while New York will be rested. With a win, the Red Bulls can split the season series with TFC at 1-1-1. New York hasn’t lost a season series with Toronto since 2009. The Red Bulls can clinch a playoff berth for the fifteenth time in nineteen seasons with a win Saturday and a Houston loss or draw at home to DC United.  The crowd size for Saturday should be similar to last week’s match.  The weather will also be similar to last Saturday, though a bit cooler. Overnight showers will dissipate during the afternoon. Skies will be clear and cool (60’s) by kickoff.

Advantage: New York


Prediction:
Without Peguy in the middle for New York, the outlook becomes a bit gloomier for the Red Bulls.  Defoe, after failing miserably at home last week, will be out to prove his quality, especially for EPL sides that might be interested in his services down the road.  Bradley has have something to prove, given his return home.  New York cannot fall out of the playoff zone this week, but may have too many missing pieces to contend with Toronto’s desperation.  I see a 1-1 draw which may keep New York from escaping the wildcard playoff match. The Red Bulls are a playoff team, but will need the entire roster back, healthy, and ready to make a deep run towards MLS cup.

  • Andrew Bissonette

    I think not having Peguy in the lineup will be a blessing in disguise. Alexander is a much better defensive player and is having a very good season distributing the ball out of the CDM spot next to Dax. Also, Bover is a creative guy at LM and a very good guy on set pieces. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s able to score or assist in this one. We still have good depth on the bench too. I imagine it will be Sene, Stevenson, Kimura, Duvall(if he doesn’t start), Perrinelle, Christianson, and Meara. This is a pretty strong team for having 7 players out. Red Bulls win against a desperate TFC team 3-1.

    • Andrew Bissonette

      I called it!!!