After hosting MLS games for more than a decade, Giants Stadium will close as a soccer venue with what could be a memorable finale.
Toronto FC tries to emerge out of a complicated playoff picture with one of the two remaining spots Saturday when it visits the New York Red Bulls.
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Toronto (10-10-9) is one of four clubs currently tied for the eighth seed in the MLS standings with 39 points. Those teams are one point behind seventh-place Colorado, putting Toronto in a must-win position – along with the right combination of results in the other matches this weekend – if it hopes to clinch a spot.
While they are many different scenarios, if Toronto wins Saturday and either FC Dallas or the Colorado Rapids lose, Toronto would make its first postseason appearance in franchise history.
There are other scenarios in which Toronto can qualify with a draw or loss.
“We need to take care of business ourselves,” interim coach Chris Cummins said. “We’re not going to talk about it too much before we go into the game. … Once we get the result, you’re going to sit back and look at the results and hope one or two go for you.”
After going winless in three games, Toronto helped its playoff chances with a 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake last Saturday. Behind a stellar effort by backup goalkeeper Brian Edwards, Jim Brennan scored his second goal of the year for the team’s first win since a 3-2 victory over Colorado on Sept. 12.
Toronto was outshot 14-8, but Edwards, starting a second straight game in place of the injured Stefan Frei, was outstanding, finishing with nine saves. Although Frei practiced Thursday, Cummings will try to ride the momentum of last week’s win with Edwards in goal.
“I’m not willing to take Brian out … because he has come in and done very well,” Cummins said. “It would send the wrong message if I take him out now.”
Saturday’s game will have much less significance for New York (4-19-6), which will finish with the MLS’ worst record. Hoping to keep Toronto from celebrating on their field, the Red Bulls will also be trying to close out Giants Stadium with a victory.
The Red Bulls are opening a soccer-specific stadium in Harrison, N.J., next year. Giants Stadium has been hosting MLS games since the league’s inception in 1996, while other professional, World Cup and international matches have been played there since 1977.
After reaching the MLS Cup last year before losing to Columbus, New York has endured a dismal year that included a 13-match winless streak and recently became the third MLS team to go without a road win (0-13-2) in a season after its 2-0 loss to Real Salt Lake on Oct. 14.
The Red Bulls are 0-3-2 since defeating Columbus 1-0 on Aug. 30, getting shut out three times in that stretch.
“We have one game left and hopefully we can play spoiler against Toronto and leave our fans with a win going into next season and into our new stadium,” midfielder Jeremy Hall said.
Toronto has won the last three against New York, including both meetings this year.