Match Preview: Red Bulls vs Toronto FC

In the finale of the Atlantic Cup, the New York Red Bulls scraped their way to draw D.C. United 3-3. Five games now remain in the regular season and the 3-0 loss to Montreal two weeks earlier coupled with the tie Sunday, further dampers New York’s hopes of lifting Supporters Shield.

Match Preview: Red Bulls vs Toronto FC

Despite a hat-trick performance, Bradley Wright-Phillips voiced frustration post-game, ” We are fighting too hard to get these wins the last two games and I don’t really like the feeling of that. We came away with a point but it doesn’t really feel good right now to me.”

With a full weeks rest the Red Bulls look to regain momentum in the Shield battle against teetering TFC. It has been a injury-laden season for TFC to say the least. Things never picked up since their Concacaf Champions League final loss. After winning the treble and having the best single season in MLS history, the comedown has hit TFC hard.

After their loss to LAFC earlier this September, Michael Bradley lamented their impotence, “this year … you have to know that the next year it’s going to be exponentially more difficult. And across the board every single person, every single person in this club has come up short in understanding what those challenges were going to be. So that part is disappointing.”

Last week TFC faced off against LA Galaxy who are too nearing the end of a season filled with promise. Both teams desperately needed a win to keep their playoff hopes alive and it was TFC who prevailed 5-3. It wasn’t a decisive win by any means, but TFC showed character to score two goals late after allowing L.A. to score three straight goals to tie the game 3-3.

Through 28 games played, TFC accumulated 30 points via eight wins, six ties while losing 14 times. With six games left, TFC is two places and nine points back of the sixth place Montreal Impact. TFC faced off against Liga MX powerhouses, Tigres UANL in a rematch of the 2018 CONCACAF Champions League semifinals. This time the two squared off in The Campeones Cup which featured the winner of the previous MLS Cup versus the winner of the Campeon de Campeones who is the victor of a one-off match between the previous Clausura and Apertura champions.

TFC lost 3-1 to Tigres UANL at BMO field losing the inaugural Campeones Cup. After the game Vanney was open and reflective saying, “It was a microcosm of our season. Good moments, some good looks on goal, controlled some possession. They’re a very good team, they’re going to have their moments as well. They picked up three goals, some things we’ve got to do better at for sure, but some of it is also the quality of the other players being able to make some plays.”

Sebastian Giovinco was subbed off in the 40th minute, Greg Vanney relayed his status, “I don’t have a clear update, we’ll know more tomorrow. He was a getting a little bit of tightness in his calves and decided he needed to shut it down.”

TFC rolled out a strong lineup vs Tigres UANL which bodes well for the Red Bulls. Jozy Altidore was also subbed out in the 57th minute presumably to keep him fresh for Saturday.

Players to Watch:

Michael Bradley

On several occasions this season, Michael Bradley has been called upon by Greg Vanney to play center back. Bradley did so against the Galaxy and will likely do the same if Chris Mavinga remains sidelined with a hamstring injury. The pseudo center back role requires Marky Delgado and Jonathan Osorio to protect Bradley as a deep-lying regista in the attack.

Behind him, Nick Hagglund and Eric Zavaleta will pinch in behind Bradley when Toronto is higher up on the field. On the other hand, limited resources will force Bradley to man-mark Bradley Wright-Phillips at times which will be entertaining to see. Despite the change of position, Bradley is a capable defender who will prove vital if TFC wants to hang around in the playoff hunt.

Tim Parker

The Red Bulls have conceded six goals in the last two games and the best defense in the league through 27 games is starting to show cracks. Tim Parker and Aaron Long will face off against Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco who in tandem play very similarly to their last opponents, Luciano Acosta and Wayne Rooney. Against D.C. United, the Red Bulls backline struggled to deal with the hold up play of Rooney in combination with Acosta’s runs off of the target striker. When the two teams last met, Altidore remained sidelined after foot surgery and his presence on Saturday will pose another test for the Red Bulls center back duo as they head down the final stretch of the season.

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