Don’t worry. It will all be over soon.
Wednesday night’s match with Chicago actually was not a bad display from Toronto, but as is so often the case: when blood is in the water, the sharks circle.
Some harmless, off-handed comments caused a minor storm… yada-yada, who cares.
Back to the matches; enough of this parsley – it’s just a garnish, not meant for sustenance.
TFC return to the pitch on Saturday to face New York in New Jersey.
It has been a little under two months since the two last met towards the end of July.
Much of what was written prior to that meeting holds true, though some new faces have emerged; a closer look at the enemy – the New York Red Bull(s) - is in order.
Mike Petke’s New York have done well over those past two months – winning four of those seven matches and drawing another.
They currently sit in a three-way tie at the top of the Eastern Conference with Montreal and Kansas City, each on 45 points; New York and KC have played 28 matches, two more than Montreal.
Still true from the last meeting is their continued struggles away from home – where they have lost four of the last six – but even that has turned around with wins in Houston and Kansas City, offset by loses in Columbus and Chivas.
At Red Bull Arena however, they are an impressive opponent, unbeaten in their last five – four wins and a draw over that spell – dating back to a defeat at the hands of Vancouver on the first of July.
The draw with TFC – after a win over Montreal - continued an unbeaten run that was stretched to four matches including impressive wins over Salt Lake at home (4-3) – Tim Cahill opened the scoring early before Fabian Espindola and Alvaro Saborio exchanged penalty kicks prior to half-time, Saborio would complete a hat-trick with two more, but another Espindola spot kick and a 94th minute Dax McCarty diving header ended an thrilling affair – and in Kansas City (2-3) – Jonny Steele and Kei Kamara traded first half goals, Espindola and Lloyd Sam put the match out of reach, and Dom Dwyer provided some 92nd minute consolation for the hosts.
They would lose 2-0 in Columbus in a lacklustre display – both goals from Federico Higuain, a penalty and a chip - and draw 0-0 back home against Philadelphia in another dour outing, before losing a stunner in Los Angeles, 3-2 to Chivas – Julio Morales and Tim Cahill a minute apart after a half hour before Cubo Torres struck from the penalty spot in first-half stoppage-time, Torres would add a second in the closing stages and McCarty would pull New York within a goal, but time ran out on the comeback.
New York closed August with a better display – a 2-1 win over strugglers DC at home on goals from Sam and Cahill, either side of a Nick DeLeon strike, though Luis Robles was called upon to save a Dwayne De Rosario penalty kick to protect the lead – before an impressive outing in Houston this past weekend, hammering the home side 1-4 – goals from Eric Alexander and Jason Johnson saw the sides level at half-time, but Thierry Henry, Steele, and Sam would nab three unanswered in a dominant second half displau.
They are currently riding a two-match winning streak.
July 20, 2013 – Toronto and New York played out a 0-0 draw at BMO Field.
Joe Bendik, as usual, was called upon to keep Toronto in the match early, and Luis Robles, in the opposite net, did well to deny Richard Eckersley on two occasions, coming up especially big on a deflected effort in the second half.
Noteworthy was Matias Laba’s ankle-breaking cut-back on Dax McCarty that left him prone, though the inadvertent face rake played its role.
Each team had a goal ruled offside with Jeremy Brockie clearly ahead of play and Tim Cahill perhaps harshly whistled shortly thereafter – if memory serves, the highlight pack is woefully inadequate.
The draw extended New York’s unbeaten run against TFC to nine matches.
Post-match Petke was critical of the lack of effort his side displayed, "Not impressive, not impressive at all. Toronto had the right mentality and we didn’t. If you play this game on paper, we win this game, but this game is not played on paper.
"This game is played with heart, effort, logic, and Toronto won in all those categories today, so in a way I feel fortunate we got a point."
While Kosuke Kimura was a little less kind, "A team like [Toronto], they’re just going to kick the long ball and try to push up every time and they’re just going to high press all the time. That’s their game, because the field is so narrow, that’s made for it. But at the same time, if you want to be a strong team and win more games in this league you have to be able to handle that pressure and atmosphere."
An ankle ligament tear suffered by Tim Cahill – after a biting challenge from Dejan Jakovic – saw the Australian midfielder miss their last match. Though originally slated to miss three-to-four weeks, he has proved himself a quick healer and is back in limited training, though his inclusion is still in doubt.
Out too (at time of writing) are defenders Roy Miller and Heath Pearce, while Brandon Barklage’s availability is questionable.
Their projected lineup is as follows: Luis Robles in goal; from right to left – Kosuke Kimura, Jamison Olave, Marcus Holgersson, and David Carney across the back; Lloyd Sam, Eric Alexander, Dax McCarty, and Jonny Steele through the midfield, with Bradley Wright-Phillips and Thierry Henry paired up top.
It is the same lineup that started their last match against Houston – why mess with success.
A few points of discussion:
Fabian Espindola has struggled to find his Salt Lake form since moving over to New York in the off-season – that Henry patrols the left-side, where Espindola preferred to roam for Salt Lake could be a factor. He remains a dangerous option off the bench, especially if the game is stretched, as does Peguy Luyindula, who has found adjusting to MLS difficult.
Young Cameroonian midfield Marius Obekop entered in the second half of the last meeting between the two clubs and nearly found an opening – all five of his appearances have come from the bench.
The injury to Cahill – and a training ground confrontation between Petke and Henry – opened up space on the right for the speedster Lloyd Sam, whose lack of effort in training has had him squarely in Petke’s doghouse for much of the season – much to the chagrin of New York fans.
He has scored a goal in each of the last two matches since featuring in the starting eleven.
Ibrahim Sekagya, their imposing and experienced defensive midfielder/centre-back, was suspended for the Houston match, after his red card against DC; he is available, but is unlikely to return with the fitness of Olave and Holgersson.
Ryan Meara, who impressed in his rookie campaign and has recovered from a long hip injury, has yet to regain his starting position, given the reliability – to use the term loosely – of Robles.
Particularly troubling for Toronto – given the absence of Doneil Henry, who is suspended for yellow card accumulation – is the burgeoning strike partnership between Henry and Wright-Phillips.
They have only had one full match together – and eighteen minutes against DC – but already it looks to have reinvigourated the stagnant play of the Frenchman, who scored his first goal in six appearances, against Houston on the weekend.
They linked up for Henry’s goal, but it was on Steele’s that their abilities proved most in sync, with Henry looping to Wright-Phillips who deftly played in the Northern Irishman:
Their partnership has garnered attention across the pond, as TFC fan abroad Jimmy Stone’s article at Eurosport highlights.
Gale Agbossoumonde, mistake against Portland aside, has been solid in his limited outings, but will have his hands full with the New York attack.
The long ball up the left from Carney crafted two goals that match; Toronto should not provide him with the time on the ball that Houston granted.
The new partnership, long, early balls, and the direct, attacking impetus of Sam have made New York an entirely more forward-minded side. He injects a pace and straight-forwardness to their, at times plodding, offense.
His goal against KC is a good exemplar of his thrust – a long Robles throw spring Steele, whose cross-field ball isolates Sam who beats both the recovering Peterson Joseph and Jimmy Nielsen.
Ashtone Morgan will have his hands full with the unfettered flow of Sam; should be one of the key matchups this match.
With Cahill out, their heading ability is somewhat decreased, though a full third of their fifteen goals since they last met Toronto have come from the air.
Cahill scored three, but the other two came from an unexpected source: McCarty.
Though a much less obvious threat – say compared to Olave, Holgersson, or even Henry – McCarty has a way of finding himself in the right position, whether shading away from the crowd, as he did against Chivas, or arriving with a late run into the box, to the near-post for the winner against Salt Lake:
If Barklage is indeed unavailable, New York will be without one of their better crossers, but Henry’s set-piece delivery will be a constant threat.
When not playing up the flanks or fizzing in balls from wide positions New York is adept at cutting straight through the middle – Alexander’s lovely goal from the weekend is a fine illustration.
Granted an inside position in the last two matches, after spending most of the season on the right-side of midfield, Alexander has adapted quickly.
With Henry dropping deep – or shading left as he is wont to do – space opens up, and a series of one-twos allows Alexander to go straight through the Houston defenses and finish with a curling right-footer:
For all that they have looked more cohesive up top; their defense still looks a shambles on occasion.
They struggle to spot danger in transition, as evidenced by how a single pass from Columbus’ Will Trapp plays in Higuain for his lovely chip:
Australian Carney, who only recently joined the side after nearly a year out of the game, has been forced to hop straight into the starting lineup at left-back - with injuries to Barklage, Miller and Connor Lade – and has not looked completely up to pace.
His stumble against DC proved costly:
Toronto may find some purchase up the attacking right, if they stress that side.
With Olave back in position, their defense is a much sturdier outfit, but they still struggle an awful lot when forced to shift position.
Both Chivas goals from open play were the result of moving the ball from the left to the right side of the box to force New York to scramble, thus opening up space.
TFC forwards need to be cognizant of creating space for each other and using it – and not be so blinkered when in front of goal.
Scrambles in the box and drifting into space; sounds like a job for Andrew Wiedeman.
Of note is that there have been six penalty kicks in their last seven matches – a figure exaggerated by the three in their seven-goal thriller against Salt Lake – two for and four against.
Holgersson committed the first two, while Sekagya was at fault for the next.
All told, there have been eleven penalty kick incidents in their matches, with eight awarded to opponents – clearly New York struggles to not be overly physical in their own box.
Five on those attempts have been converted, with Robles twice coming up with huge saves and Chris Rolfe sending his attempt wide.
New York has scored all three of their attempts – though curiously, Henry has not attempted any.
Toronto, namely Jonathan Osorio and Alvaro Rey, should look to drive into the box whenever possible and force New York into clumsy and rash challenges. And hope they find a sympathetic referee.
TFC has not won in New York since 2008, when a Chad Barrett brace and a late goal from Fuad Ibrahim cancelled out a Dane Richards strike for a 1-3 win at Giants Stadium – a span of four matches – and have suffered some heavy defeats, including a pair of 5-0’s and a 4-1 in last season’s meeting.
In seven all-time visits, TFC has lost six and been outscored by a whopping 21-4 margin.
This could get ugly.