As the summer ends, Toronto FC seem to have cemented their spot in the standings. Every time there is a chance they could move down they take care of business. By that same token, every time they have a chance to move up they have been unable to collect three points.
A win against the New York Red Bulls tonight would still leave them two points behind the hottest team in the east, but it would be a meaningful message that they no longer intend to be mediocre.
What it certainly won't be is easy, as the Red Bulls have 13 points from their last 5 games, making them the league's best team over that stretch. They are quickly closing in on DC United as the top team in Major League Soccer's Eastern Conference and could catch them soon.
The same applies for the Supporter's Shield race, in which RBNY's recent run of form has made them a major contender.
Not only that, but the game will be played at Red Bull Arena, where the home team is almost unbeatable. So far this season the Red Bulls have only lost twice at home, and have collected 20 of a possible 30 points.
Toronto, for their part, have been surprisingly good on the road this season, one of the reason's they are still 3 points into the playoffs. Their 1.3 PPG on the road so far this season is among the best in Major League Soccer.
The reds, however, don't come into this game in nearly the same form as their counterparts. While New York, as aforementioned, has collected 13 points in their last 5 games Toronto has only been able to collect 7.
Toronto FC are also coming off of an embarrassing 3-1 loss at home to Sporting Kansas City, in which a nearly fully staffed Toronto FC came out flat against Benny Feilhaber and crew.
Toronto looks to have even more options today, as several players are entering the fold. Josh Williams and Herculez Gomez could both their Toronto debuts, Benoit Cheyrou is back from suspension and backline trio Justin Morrow, Nick Hagglund and Clement Simonin are all available.
The one absence for Toronto, however, is significant as starting centreback Damien Perquis will once again be unavailable for today's match. A week after being suspended, Perquis has picked up a quad injury and once again will be unavailable.
New York are also have Damien issues as their starting centreback, Damien Perinelle, will miss the match as well. Perinelle was suspended two games, including today's, for violent conduct in last weekend's derby match against New York City FC.
Tactically, this match will be a huge test for the mobility and technical skill of Toronto's backline. New York has used a highly effective "high press" in recent weeks, getting their forwards high and putting plenty of pressure on defenders.
All week in training Toronto has been working on countering this tactic, and having a player like Cheyrou back is massive. The Frenchmen's ability to drop back and collect the ball from his defenders will be a major help for a backline that sometimes struggles with ball possession.
If Toronto can bypass this high press, the thinking is that it will catch players up field and make them dangerous on the counterattack. With the designated player trio of Michael Bradley, Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore all expected to play this week Toronto will be dangerous in transition.
Toronto FC Projected Starting Eleven
Despite some questions Joe Bendik will stay in the net. He may have played 120 minutes straight after joining Toronto, but their will be no rest of Ahmed Kantari as he starts again at centreback alongside Eriq Zavaleta. The return of Benoit Cheyrou will knock Marky Delgado out of Toronto's midfield. It is not for lack of skill, but Collen Warner is in very good form and brings more defensively to the table.
Up front Toronto will be back with its trio of DPs: Bradley, Giovinco and Altidore. The hope will be that they can connect they way they have at other times this season.
The match will be played tonight at 7:00 PM Eastern, and will be available in Canada on TSN 2.