TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA – New York City FC will have their final regular-season test against Eastern Conference leader Toronto FC this Sunday afternoon. Let’s take a look.
Tale of the Tape
Toronto FC lead the Eastern Conference with 11 wins and 40 points from 21 matches. They are currently undefeated at BMO Field with a 7-0-3 mark. They are also at the top of the Supporter’s Shield table, two points ahead of Chicago Fire SC (who have a game in hand). The Reds are also fourth in the league in scoring (tied with Houston and Portland) with 37 goals. They are 2-1-2 (W-L-D) in their last five matches.
New York City FC are looking up at Toronto in the standings, with 11 wins and 37 points from 21 matches. They are 4-5-1 (W-L-D) on the road this year. Also relevant: NYCFC – in its history – is 4-1-1 when playing in Canada during the regular season, with their lone loss coming just a few weeks ago in Vancouver. City is in third place overall in the Supporter’s Shield table, and tied with Atlanta for the league lead in scoring. They are 3-1-1 in their last five, including last weekend’s stunner against Chicago in which they won 2-1 despite being down a man for nearly 80 minutes.
Will the real NYCFC please stand up?
The script is somewhat flipped from the last time these two clubs clashed. In the middle of last week, Toronto traveled to Yankee Stadium missing a sizable contingent of their starters – notably captain Michael Bradley and striker Jozy Altidore. The stage was set for New York City to take advantage of the roster imbalance and snatch three points from a team ahead of them in the standings, but it was not to be. A sloppy, disorganized showing from City combined with a late penalty from RJ Allen in the box led to a disastrous draw-that-felt-like-a-loss. Toronto had even lost their best hope for a win about 30 minutes in when Sebastian Giovinco was pulled from the game after an abdominal injury that he could not continue through.
In a game that felt like it might define the season for NYCFC, they came up short.
Only three days later, City turned it around with a gritty, organized win over then-league leader, Chicago. City captain David Villa would repeat a mantra to reporters after the match: “This is so much bigger than three points.” The short-handed victory against Chicago could very well prove to be the turning point the first Toronto match was not. We will know for sure on Sunday evening which NYCFC team is the real one.
The gang’s all here (for Toronto)
This time around, TFC boss Greg Vanney – ejected from the first leg of this match-up for arguing a disallowed goal from Jay Chapman – will have both Altidore and Bradley available. The question remains of whether or not they will play, but given the circumstances – NYCFC is just three points behind Toronto and a win would put them over the top – one would think the chances of seeing one or both for at least some of the match are nearly certain. Giovinco will also be available, having returned to play in TFC’s last match against Colorado (a disappointing 1-1 draw at BMO).
Conversely, Patrick Vieira will be without standout loanee Yangel Herrera – red carded by referee Allen Chapman after just twelve minutes against Chicago last Saturday. Herrera is an important piece of one of the better midfields in the league, and replacing him against a Toronto side that likes to stuff the middle of the pitch with five will not be easy. The obvious like-for-like replacement would be Mikey Lopez, but there’s an outside chance that Andrea Pirlo may also see some time. With Rodney Wallace still out, it’s very possible that Vieira gives Jonathan Lewis another shot on the wing after a stellar performance last week.
Maxime Chanot will remain unavailable, an Frederic Brillant will get a chance to prove he can string together two good performances in a row. Against the likes of Altidore and Giovinco, he will need to be at the top of his game.
Toronto FC (3-5-2): Bono; Hernandez, Moor, Mavinga; Cooper, Delgado, Bradley, Vazquez, Hasler; Giovinco, Altidore
New York City FC (4-3-3): Johnson; White, Callens, Brillant, Sweat; Ring, Moralez, Lopez; Harrison, Villa, Lewis