The games between NYCFC and TFC last season were highlights and lowlights of the season. The first match saw NYCFC batter and bruise the Reds into submission, taking a 2-0 win. The next meeting was an eight-goal shootout, ending in a 4-4 draw. New York took the final game of the season 2-0.
So much has changed for ManCity Lite - Jason Kreis is out and Patrick Viera is in, learning MLS life on the job and (so far) doing an ok job of it. But where TFC have vastly improved their backline, New York are fraught with defensive problems. They lack a defensive midfielder that can cover ground and put in tackles - Pirlo certainly isn't that man - and their defense is seriously lacking MLS experience. Young left back Ronald Matarrita has promise, but aging centre-back tandem Jason Hernandez and Frederic Brillant leave much to be desired at times, and Ethan White is still learning the Right Back spot. All signs point to TFC, thin as they are at the front right now, being able to exploit a team that conceded 3 goals last week. To Chicago.
With injuries hitting TFC hard up front - Jozy Altidore and Dan Lovitz are unavailable - Marky Delgado slots into the front three. Expect the rest of the team to be unchanged from the win at Red Bull Arena, where Moor and Perquis appear to have made good use of the preseason, learning how to work together. Perquis seems to be much more comfortable when he's not "the guy", and Moor has organised well. Look for a similar game-plan to last week.
Keys to the Game
Win the midfield battle. Bradley, Johnson, and Osorio worked well as a midfield three against the Red Bulls, and they'll need to do so again. NYCFC has a very attack-focused midfield three, and Bradley's decision-making will need to be spot on to make sure the Reds are not caught out. That means the rotations will need to be managed well, pressure applied to Andrea Pirlo before he can make a telling pass, and tracking runs from deep by Mix and MacNamara.
Take advantage of Ethan White. If White lines up at right back again, isolating him against the left winger - or Giovinco when he flares wide - should pay dividends. Attacking the flank hard on the counter should produce a result for Delgado or Giovinco, who both have the ability to beat a player on the run. Making that work for the Reds could pay dividends. A potential substitute appearance on the left wing for Molham Babouli could produce a nice result.
Stay Defensively Organized. With the fullbacks tending to attack less in the new system and the super-narrow pitch at Yankee Stadium, TFC will need to communicate well at the back and be aware of the midfield threat. Even though New York scored 4 last week, they are not an overpowering offensive team and they can be dealt with. Young attackers like Khiry Shelton and Tony Taylor pose a threat with their pace, but proper organization will beat pace every time.
TFC are certainly capable of another road win. The stated goal is 8 points from 8 games, but the NYCFC backline must look enticing for the TFC forwards. If the defense can hold firm, and handle the midfield attackers that help support the NYC goalscorers - players like Mix Diskerud and Tommy MacNamara - the Reds can certainly expect a result. My Prediction - a scrappy 2-1 win for the Reds on the road.
The game kicks off at 5pm ET on Sportsnet One.