The last time the New York Red Bulls and Toronto FC squared off, things got heated as Toronto eliminated New York from the MLS playoffs. Eight months later, the tables have turned.
These days, it’s the Red Bulls who are riding high, looking to avenge their Eastern Conference semifinal loss when they visit Toronto on Sunday at BMO Field.
New York (9-4-2) enters the match third in the Eastern Conference, two points up on the Columbus Crew. The Red Bulls have lost just once in their previous nine games, winning six times during that span. The most recent victory came in the form of a 3-0 outcome against Dallas in which the team was limited to 10 men for nearly 60 minutes.
“It was a show of our character,” Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch told mlssoccer.com. “We talk a lot around here about our style of play and our tactics and all the different things that we try to be about from a soccer, technical perspective. But this was more to do about the character of the group and their commitment and their mentality and their will on the day to play for each other and do whatever it was going to take.”
New York sits second in the league with 33 goals, 11 of which have come off the foot of Bradley Wright-Phillips. The veteran striker, whose goals rank second in MLS, is three shy of 100 for his career.
Toronto, meanwhile, finds itself needing victories if it hopes to climb into playoff contention. After picking up points in three straight (one win, two draws) for the first time this season heading into the World Cup break, Toronto FC (4-8-3) came out of the layoff on the wrong side of a 2-1 verdict against New York City FC on Sunday. The club heads into the weekend with just one win in its last five outings and is 2-4-2 in its last eight.
“We have to take it game by game,” Toronto FC midfielder Jonathan Osorio told reporters after the loss. “We’ve got to start catching up. We’ve been saying this, there’s no time to waste now. Every game is a must-win now. That’s where we’re at now.”
They’ll have plenty of opportunities to do that during the next week, with Sunday’s match kicking off a stretch of three games in six days, including the next two on the road.
“I find at times we are so committed to trying to get goals that we are forgetting that we need to maintain our shape behind the ball and we need to keep the game in control,” coach Greg Vanney told the Toronto Sun.
Vanney attributed some of the team’s struggles in the loss to a lack of efficiency and the humid air. The latter will be a significant factor on Sunday, with the forecast calling for a high of 93 degrees and feeling like 109 with the humidity.