History will be made today before a ball is even kicked. At 7:00 p.m. tonight, Toronto FC will play their first ever Eastern Conference semi-final match, following in the footsteps of their first ever playoff win. They face a New York City FC side who will be playing in their first-ever playoff game in just their second season as a club.
It's enough to have Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney call the matchup "interesting" because he, nor anyone else for that matter, seems to know what will happen. Will it be an offensive firefight with both teams just trading goals? Or will both clubs, namely NYCFC, play more cautious in the playoffs.
Toronto would probably prefer the latter, as New York has proven this season that they know how to win games that are wide open, and are likely to get a couple of away goals should that happen.
Here are three stories to watch for tonight:
All Eyes on Villa
A lot of players over the years have been labelled "Toronto FC killers" because, well, TFC haven't been very good at stopping teams from scoring in the past. Recently, however, few players have dominated Toronto FC like David Villa has. The Spanish striker will again be on the top of Toronto's minds today after he scored 23 regular season goals this year.
Should Toronto once again play a back three, which is likely after how successful they were while using it last game, look for Toronto captain Michael Bradley to drop deep and try to take him out of the game. He is the club's best man marker. If Toronto can limit Villa then they will seriously impair the New York City attack.
Keeping em' Out
Toronto FC has conceded a number of unnecessary goals lately, especially at home. A lot of those goals have come late in the match, such as Alejandro Bedoya's effort that they allowed on Wednesday against the Philadelphia Union. They cannot afford to do that again, especially with what those away goals could mean going back to New York.
Toronto has never beaten New York City FC, something they will likely have to do today to advance. But they need to make sure to beat them while limiting NYCFC's offence as much as possible.
The Designated Player Battle
There will be a lot of talent on display tonight, part of the reason why there is so much hype going into this match. It will be Villa, Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard for New York versus the Toronto DP trio of Bradley, Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco. These players will be counted on by both sides to get the job done.
For Toronto, Giovinco, Altidore and Bradley were massive in their victory against Philadelphia in the knockout round. If they can play like that again tonight there is a good chance at more celebration. For New York, it will be Villa in particular who can be the difference maker.
Toronto FC: Irwin; Zavaleta, Hagglund, Moor; Morrow, Cooper, Osorio, Bradley, Beitashour; Altidore, Giovinco
Subs: Bono, Bloom, Cheyrou, Delgado, Johnson, Ricketts, Williams
New York City FC: Johansen; Allen, Brillant, Chanot, Matarrita; Iraola, Lopez, Bravo; Mendoza, Harrison, Villa
Venue: BMO Field Toronto, ON
Kickoff: 7:00 p.m. Eastern
SB Nation Opposition Blog: Hudson River Blue
Streaming: TSN Go