Toronto FC-Revolution Preview
Only seven points separate second place from eighth in the Eastern Conference, with Toronto FC and the New England Revolution right in the middle of the pack.
The Revolution, however, are about to welcome back star midfielder Jermaine Jones while already short-handed Toronto will be without captain Michael Bradley as these teams return from the All-Star break Saturday night at Gillette Stadium.
New England (7-9-7) and Toronto (8-7-4) each have 28 points to sit one behind the third-place New York Red Bulls and three in back of Columbus for second.
Toronto is in playoff contention thanks to its 1.47 points per game, which ranks third in the East behind the Red Bulls and conference-leading D.C. The club has scored nine goals during a 1-0-2 stretch and is 5-2-4 in the last 11.
Bradley missed the last four matches while playing for the United States at the Gold Cup, playing every minute in six games over the span of 19 days. He was diagnosed with a calf strain Wednesday and will miss a week to 10 days.
Forward Sebastian Giovinco, who is second in MLS with 13 goals and 10 assists, is dealing with a bruised heel that kept him from playing in the All-Star Game on Wednesday. Defender Ashtone Morgan is questionable with a groin injury and midfielder Collen Warner is out due to yellow card accumulation.
Defender Ahmed Kantari, though, is expected to make his debut after being signed July 24. Toronto is hoping the veteran of France's Ligue 1 can help the back line improve after the club allowed 12 goals over the last four games.
"We need a voice, somebody to take on that responsibility," coach Greg Vanney told the club's official website. "He knows the game very well, reads the game well and he's been a captain of many of his teams. He communicates in multiple languages, which has been good in helping him integrate with the team."
Jones is set to integrate back into the team after not playing since May 31 following surgery to repair a bilateral sports hernia. He's appeared in nine games this season, with New England going 3-1-5.
"You definitely feel his presence when he's on the field," forward Charlie Davies said. "There's definitely a boost in the locker room. I think he'll be coming back at the right time."
New England snapped a six-game losing streak, including U.S. Open Cup play, with a 1-0 win over New York City FC on July 18 before earning a 2-all draw at Chicago last Saturday.
"I think we're finally starting to turn the page," said Davies, who leads the Revolution with seven goals.
Bradley scored in the 53rd minute on an assist from Giovinco to give Toronto a 1-all draw in New England in the first meeting May 16.
"(Saturday) is like a Cup final for us," Davies said. "It's an Eastern Conference opponent, a rival if you will. These games are the games we have to win three points at home."