When Toronto FC take to the field this weekend in New England, they will be trying to accomplish something that hasn’t been done since March 15: beat the home side. Since falling 2-0 to New York City FC in their second game of the year, the New England Revolution have gone 5-0-3 and risen to second place in the MLS Eastern Conference.
It will be a good test for Toronto FC, as they face one of the best teams in the league. But Michael Bradley insists it isn’t a measuring stick game for the club, at least no more than any other match at this stage of the season.
"They are all measuring stick matches at this point, it’s still early," Bradley explained at training today. "Who we are as a team and what we are about, we are still figuring that out. We’re still trying to find the best version of ourselves in terms of who is on the field, the balance and the best way to play."
He cites yesterday’s 3-2 victory over the Montreal Impact as evidence that this balance is starting to be found.
Greg Vanney agrees that the team is seeing progress, especially offensively. He points to the chemistry between the designated players that Toronto has been built around as an indication that things are starting to fall into place.
"I think their relationship continues to grow," said Vanney, "Jozy and Sebastian and working off of each other and combining. For Michael he played a little higher up the field so he’s now a little more connected to them, as of last night."
He explains that they complement each other well. Bradley’s role is to be a two way player who is the engine of the team. Jozy Altidore is a finisher while Sebastian Giovinco is a mix between the two, and often the link between the two as well. Never was that as evident as last night’s match.
But Toronto know there is a lot of work left to be done, especially against a New England team that beat them all three times they met last season. Toronto haven’t forgotten, and will be looking for revenge.
"We remember the games last year very well," said Bradley. "It’s a good team but certainly a bitter taste from losing three times to the same team last year. We know that we will have to go there and play well."
Vanney is hoping that the emotion of wanting to end the domination New England has had over Toronto will play into how they compete on Saturday. He think it will be crucial in the battle between two offensively gifted teams.
"Hopefully the good guys win, the good guys being us of course," he said with a smile. "I think it’s going to be a bit of a tactical match, but I don’t want us to get caught up in the tactics. I think we’re at our best when our personality emerges, when we feel like there is something on the line."
He explained the importance of balancing between playing in a protective mode when some of New England’s stronger players are on the ball and not being afraid to dictate play themselves.
If they are able to do this, then there is a decent chance that the club can achieve their fourth road victory of the season, tying the club’s single season record. That would be a promising sign with nine more road games still to come.