NEW YORK CITY, NY – When Toronto FC comes to town it’s nearly always a wild one. New York City FC restart their season after a turbulent World Cup break in which they lost both Patrick Vieira to OGC Nice, and Ronald Matarrita to a hamstring injury. There is additional uncertainty in that Vieira’s replacement, Domenec Torrent, has not yet arrived in the US, with the club citing visa difficulties.
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The numbers going into this one are not on the Blue side. NYCFC have not beaten Toronto since September 16, 2015. In the six matches since, NYCFC has gone 0W-3L-3D with a combined -11 goal differential (including a 0-7 defeat over two legs in the 2016 playoffs).
TFC had a difficult go of it in the early part of the season. A tough schedule that included the CONCACAF Champion’s League meant Greg Vanney and his first-choice squad weren’t playing very much in the league. The Reds found themselves in the Eastern Conference basement, winning only three of their first ten matches in 2018.
Vanney has also been plagued by injury. Jozy Altidore, Drew Moor, and Chris Mavinga have all been out for extended periods of time, especially effecting the defending champ’s back line. Moor returned to training just this week, but Mavinga and Altidore remain sidelined. Ashtone Morgan is listed as doubtful.
In Altidore’s absence, Jonathan Osorio has really turned it on. The midfielder has three goals and an assist in TFC’s last two matches – a 2-0 win over Philadelphia and last week’s 4-4 draw with DC United. Sebastian Giovinco is also an ever-present threat, but he’s been quiet by his sky-high standards – perhaps because opposing defenses have less to account for without Altidore.
Despite their struggles, Toronto FC match up well against NYCFC. They do well everything the Pigeons struggle to defend, namely taking long shots from outside the box, creating chances from the wings, and of course Giovinco’s set pieces in dangerous areas.
New York City FC
It seems unlikely at this point that Domenec Torrent will be on the touchline for NYCFC this weekend. His stand-in will likely be goalkeeper coach Rob Vartughian. The former Union technical director took the reins once before in a friendly against the Puerto Rican national team (a match that featured two own goals, but ultimately finished 2-1 after a Kwadwo Poku stoppage-time winner).
It remains to be seen whether or not Vartughian has received any instruction from Torrent. By extension, it’s unclear if any major changes will be made to the Starting XI. With Yangel Herrera done for the year, Ebenezer Ofori will have his hands full trying to contain Osorio while also getting his first head-to-head match-up with Giovinco. Alex Ring can hopefully help his line-mate out there, but this certainly seems like a match that’s ripe for disappointment. A win will go a long way to quell the uncertainty surrounding the club over the long break.
For my part, I don’t expect Vartughian to make wholesale changes. Jo Inge Berget will still be in the lineup, and I think if Maxime Chanot is fully healthy he’ll be back in his starting role. When Torrent finally does make it here, then maybe we’ll see a rebirth of Jonathan Lewis, along with some more minutes for guys like Kwame Awuah, James Sands and Joe Scally.
It should be noted, however, that Sands and Scally are both at the US Soccer Development Academy playoffs which run through June 30th.