Four. The number of goals Toronto FC scored in one half of extra time Saturday night against D.C. United. Unfortunately, four is also the number of days between playoff matches for TFC as the Reds are back in action Wednesday night when they take on New York City FC at Citi Field.
While Toronto’s turn around between matches is a swift one, their second round opponents have been out of game action for over two weeks, although sources have confirmed to WTR that New York played a friendly fixture against the Chicago Fire behind closed doors some time last week in order to keep their legs fresh.
Having finished atop the Eastern conference standings, NYC FC earned a bye in the first round of the MLS Cup Playoffs, and as a result have not played in MLS action since defeating Philadelphia Union 2-1 back on October 6.
Both sides enter Wednesday’s contest in red hot form of late. TFC’s 5-1 result against D.C. United made it eleven straight matches without defeat dating back to the regular season.
For NYC FC, their final eleven regular season matches consisted of only one loss to go with eight victories and a pair of draws.
Despite New York’s success, Toronto has fared well against their Big Apple rivals this season. In the two regular season meetings between the sides, the Reds picked up four out of a possible six points. Most recently, the two teams played back on September 11 to a 1-1 draw at Yankee Stadium (note the venue change for the upcoming playoff game).
Prior to that, Alejandro Pozuelo emphatically introduced himself to NYC FC and all of Major League Soccer way back on March 29 when he scored two goals and added an assist in his magical MLS debut at BMO Field.
Although the game is taking place at an alternate venue, expectations are that the Citi Field surface should have similar — if not smaller dimensions — to that of Yankee Stadium. This smaller playing surface is a big part of the reason New York had so much success on their own pitch, losing only one match at home all season.
While this is sure to be a challenge for the Reds, TFC starting goalkeeper Quentin Westberg insists his side is prepared for it.
“It’s just adapting once more... adapting to the size of the field, (adapting) to the opposition also,” said Westberg speaking media following a training session on Monday. “It’s going to be a totally different team than D.C. (United,) but we’re embracing it. It’s great to be there, and we’re definitely going to give them a battle.”
The status of Jozy Altidore and Omar Gonzalez remains unclear heading into Wednesday with both players having missed out on the home match against D.C. United. On top of these two, Chris Mavinga and Marky Delgado were both forced to exit training early Monday due to undisclosed injuries picked up against D.C. United.
Based on comments from Greg Vanney following training on Monday, Mavinga and Delgado will be fit to play Wednesday night, while Gonzalez is probable to play.
Considering Altidore was unavailable to even make the 18-man squad on Saturday, it seems a spot in the starting XI is a long shot, with a substitution appearance likely reserved in the case of a much needed late goal.
For Vanney’s group, the aim will be to pick up exactly where they left off in extra time on Saturday. The Reds’ recent form, the potential for reinforcements in Altidore and Gonzalez, and their success against NYC FC this season should lead to a confident group heading into Wednesday night’s single elimination match at Citi Field.
- Wednesday’s match will be New York City FC’s second ever home game played at Citi Field. The club last played there two years ago when they hosted Columbus Crew SC on Decision day back in 2017, playing to a 2-2 draw.
- Alejandro Pozuelo converted six out of the seven penalties he took this season. His lone miss from the spot came against NYC FC, with goalkeeper Sean Johnson denying the Spaniard.
- The two teams last met in the post season back in 2016 when Major League Soccer still used the two-leg aggregate score format. Toronto FC comfortably defeated New York 7-0 on aggregate, with former Red Sebastian Giovinco infamously scoring a hat-trick away at Yankee Stadium in leg two.