One game. Win or go home.
The last time an MLS playoff match took place at BMO Field, Toronto FC were crowned champions of the MLS Cup two years ago on a cold December night.
22 months later, the Reds are back in the post-season and thanks to a late surge (going unbeaten in their final 10 matches,) they begin their 2019 playoff campaign at home against D.C. United. The two sides come into Saturday’s match-up with identical records (13W-10L-11D) good for 50 points a piece.
While TFC head into the match in fine form, D.C. have been inconsistent down the stretch, finishing up their regular season with a 0-0 draw against a weak FC Cincinnati side (without Rooney due to suspension), a result which cost them home field advantage.
Both regular season battles between the two teams resulted in a draw. First, a 0-0 at BMO back in May where TFC held possession of the ball 71% of the match followed by a 1-1 result for the Reds away at Audi Field on June 29th when an injury-time penalty from Wayne Rooney salvaged a point for D.C.
The challenge for Toronto FC will be creating offence against a stingy D.C. side that allowed only 38 goals in the regular season (2nd in the MLS behind only LAFC who conceded 37 times.) While it’s likely the Reds while dictate much of the play on their own pitch, there could be concerns in the goal scoring department as questions remain regarding the availability of talisman Jozy Altidore.
Team President Bill Manning joined TSN 1050 Radio Thursday morning and suggested that Altidore would be a “game time decision” for Saturday’s playoff match. If TFC are indeed without the services of Altidore, head coach Greg Vanney has some difficult decisions to make to help fill the void left up front.
For Vanney and co., the focus remains on the task at hand and his side are confident heading into Saturday’s match, particularly with home field advantage in their favour.
“We feel like the second half of the season, we’ve been a good team... big excitement to be able to kick things off at home in our stadium in front of our fans” said captain Michael Bradley to the media following a Thursday afternoon training session.
Luckily for Toronto FC, in the case of a draw after 90 minutes, the MLS playoffs extra time format does include two fifteen minute halves prior to penalty kicks. The Reds penalty kicks struggles have been well documented of late thanks to a loss in the 2019 Voyageurs Cup final to the Montreal Impact in PK’s (Let’s not get into the 2016 MLS Cup Final.)
In a perfect world, TFC will be able to find a breakthrough in regulation time, be it through a banged up Jozy Altidore or perhaps a piece of individual brilliance from Alejandro Pozuelo.
In any case, Vanney’s side will take a result anyway they can get it in a single-elimination tie as they begin their quest to return to MLS Cup glory in 2019.
- Wayne Rooney has agreed to join English side Derby County in a player-manager role beginning in January. A D.C. United loss would likely be the final match in Major League Soccer for the former Manchester United man.
- D.C. United have failed to score from open play in three straight matches against TFC. Following a 4-4 draw back in June of 2018, both of D.C’s goals since have come courtesy of Wayne Rooney from a penalty kick and a free-kick.
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