Toronto FC beat the New York Red Bulls 4-2 on September 30 to clinch the 2017 Supporters’ Shield. Now, they will have to beat them again if they want the most important piece of silverware up for grabs this season: the MLS Cup.
The Red Bulls defeated the Chicago Fire 4-0 in the MLS Cup knockout round on Wednesday night to move on to a conference semi-finals matchup with Toronto FC. As the top seed in the east, Toronto were given a bye through the first round.
Finishing first in the east also afforded Toronto a matchup with the lowest-seeded team in the conference to come out of the knockout round. The Red Bulls are the sixth and lowest seed in the East.
This means that the conference semi-final will start in New Jersey on either Monday or Tuesday and then the return leg will be on November 5 at BMO Field in Toronto. The winner of the series on aggregate will advance to the conference finals.
Toronto FC got the better of the season series between the two, beating the Red Bulls at BMO Field and drawing 1-1 at Red Bull Arena on a late goal by Benoit Cheyrou. TFC will be a big favourite, evidently, having finished with 19 more points in the standings.
But the Red Bulls, despite a rocky end to their 2017 campaign, dominated the Chicago Fire, scoring twice in the first 11 minutes and not looking back. Bradley Wright-Phillips, Sacha Kljestan, Gonzalo Veron and Daniel Royer all scored.
They will come into the series with Toronto with plenty of confidence as a result. TFC have also traditionally been poor when playing away from home against the Red Bulls so they will have to be ready for a battle from a start.
Toronto rode the momentum of a knockout-round victory all the way to the MLS Cup final last season. So they know that the fact they were by far the better team during the regular season does not necessarily mean much.