The picture is starting to come into focus for the New York Red Bulls, but it’s still blurry for Toronto FC.
Unbeaten in their last five and coming off a fourth win in that stretch, the Red Bulls try to continue their fantastic form Saturday night as they host a Toronto team that’s rarely had any success in this series.
A month makes a big difference for the Red Bulls (10-6-6), who possess the league’s longest active unbeaten streak. They have multiple goals in all four wins in this run, which has seen them outscore their five opponents 12-3.
Leading scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips has led the charge. Last year’s Golden Boot winner dragged through a six-game scoring drought from May 15-June 24, but he’s tallied five goals and two assists in his last seven matches. That includes game winners in New York’s last two victories, 3-1 over Philadelphia on Aug. 1 and 2-0 over New York City FC on Sunday.
The Red Bulls (10-6-6) sit pretty in the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 spot with 36 points, eight points behind a D.C. United team that has played four more games than New York.
"I think our team’s in a good way, and I think our team’s been in a good way for most of the season," coach Jesse Marsch told the team’s official website.
Toronto hasn’t been able to find any consistency with a 2-3-3 record in its last eight, including two losses in its last three. The Reds (9-9-4) are still just two slots behind the Red Bulls with 31 points, but they are only three points clear of the East’s first team out, Orlando City.
Meetings with New York typically haven’t played out well for Toronto. The Red Bulls are 8-1-4 in the past 13 meetings and hold a 30-10 scoring edge.
Toronto has scored 15 goals in eight games, even better than its league-high average of 1.68. MVP candidate Sebastian Giovinco has scored half of his 16 goals in his last six games, and he’s one behind league-leader Kei Kamara of Columbus.
But surrendering 19 goals has weighed down the Reds’ record over the last eight. Toronto has allowed three goals in three of its last four and is winless in its last four road contests even though it has scored a league-leading 22 goals away from home.
"We’re at a point of the season where we need to start creating some separation, we need to start making things clear," coach Greg Vanney told the team’s official website. "But right now we keep kind of hanging in this, and keeping other teams in the mix."
Inconsistent availability from the front line has added to Toronto’s woes. U.S. national team members Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley each missed considerable time due to injuries and against Kansas City suited up together for the first time since June 27.
Altidore started his career with the Red Bulls from 2006-08 and became the youngest goalscorer in MLS playoff history at 16 in 2006. But he’s struggled through a hamstring injury and has seven goals and no assists in 16 games. Only one of those tallies has come in his last seven.
New York will play without Damien Perrinelle after the defender was given a two-game suspension for a punch thrown in the win over NYCFC.