TORONTO, Canada—After a couple false starts, Toronto FC found their way into the win column for the first time this MLS season Wednesday night, against the defending champions Columbus SC. Now, the Reds will try to do that all over again, this time at Yankee Stadium against the New York City FC.
Kick-off is scheduled for 1 PM ET and can be watched on TSN 4 and CTV.
With Wednesday’s win, Chris Armas and his squad will have settled the nerves amongst the Reds faithful after their slow start. The offence, a big part of what made this Reds team unrecognizable, looked rejuvenated, by going back to basics, with new Designated Player Yefferson Soteldo handed his first start in a Reds shirt.
From the opening minute, it was clear the impact the young Venezuelan can have on this squad. Despite not scoring—and he very well could have had his first goal for the club —Soteldo was able to make his presence felt from open play, taking on defenders and being able to deliver dangerous balls into the box on set pieces.
In general though, Armas was able to have his squad balance the directness that is his vision, with the patience and possession that has become synonymous with the Reds over the last number of years. It certainly paid dividends against Columbus SC and may do so once against NYCFC.
Squad selection has been quite the topic of discussion among the Reds faithful so far this year. While in many cases, Armas’ hands have been tied, the goalkeeper position has become a convenient topic of conversation. The TFC head coach has opted to start Alex Bono in every single match this year, and for the most part the 27 year-old has done well. Apart from a couple lapses in judgement, Bono has played well enough to earn his starts.
Bono is coming off of a strong performance on Wednesday night. Multiple key stops from the 27-year-old keeper led to the Reds keeping their first clean sheet of the season. Armas continues to maintain that he has two number one goalkeepers within his ranks, so it will continue to be something to monitor: how the TFC head coach handles his goalkeepers.
Given Bono’s latest strong outing, it would be a surprise to see fellow goalie Quentin Westberg handed his first start of the season...as much as fans are clamouring for it.
Chris Armas on TFC's GKs: "We have two number ones, this is clear...Q didn't lose the spot necessarily...Alex was available when we went to Mexico & we move on in that first series against Leon, and we think Alex was a big difference maker in the series..."— Michael Singh (@MichaelSingh94) May 13, 2021
As for the rest of the lineup, it seems the Reds are finally turning a corner and getting healthier. Jozy Altidore, who missed the previous two games due to an illness, made his return to the Reds lineup coming off of the bench and scoring on his return. In his approximately 30 minutes of action, Altidore looked extremely impressive and may well be in line to return to the starting XI on Saturday afternoon.
Jonathan Osorio may also be available for Saturday, but Armas has urged caution with the Canadian midfielder’s return. It’s not a secret how important a healthy Osorio can be for this squad, so if it means having to wait an extra week, it would be the wise decision.
Toronto FC injury report ahead of Saturday's match vs. #NYCFC— Michael Singh (@MichaelSingh94) May 14, 2021
Justin Morrow (Right Thigh)
Reds fans may also see another debut on Saturday afternoon. Armas is expecting to have the club’s newest signing, Dom Dwyer, to be available. While a start is unlikely seeing as Dwyer hasn’t played a competitive fixture since his appearance for Orlando at last season’s MLS is Back Tournament, there might be an opportunity to give the newest addition a run out for a few minutes in New York.
Kemar Lawrence, meanwhile, is another name to look out for on the team sheet. Armas has mentioned how much he values continuity, but with a larger pool of players to select from, we may see the Toronto head coach rotate in at least some of these positions. Lawrence made his debut for the club on Wednesday, coming off of the bench, but with the familiarity and trust that Armas likely has with Lawrence, coupled with the lack of rest TFC full-backs have been afforded this season, Lawrence could, and truthfully should, make his first appearance in the starting XI.
As for TFC’s opponents on Saturday, they come into this game on the back of a 1-1 draw against Orlando City.
After their season-opening loss to D.C. United, NYCFC have bounced back with consecutive clean sheet victories, a 5-0 win vs FC Cincinnati and 2-0 win vs the Philadelphia Union, before faltering last week—although the Blues would have expected to come away with another win after controlling the majority of chances.
Should TFC choose to go back to the high press, they will have to be careful of the attacking threat NYCFC pose. The Reds have been punished for not being able to effectively execute the press and the centre-backs have been burned while keeping a high line, so Armas will have to be wary of the attacking threat of the Blues, especially when his squad turns the ball over.
Wednesday’s win is being looked at as almost a restart on the season for the Reds. It was undoubtedly a big win for the club and for Armas, but getting a second win in consecutive outings will help Reds faithful consider the first two games as simply a blip in the larger context of the season.
- TFC have had a favourable record against NYCFC in previous seasons, including last season where the Reds picked up two wins (2 W, 1L). Alejandro Pozuelo has been key in that, as the reigning MVP really has enjoyed scoring against the Blues, but this time without him in the lineup, it will have be a collective effort to pick up the three points.
- With a goal in his substitute appearance on Wednesday, Altidore picked up his 75th goal for the club. Only Sebastian Giovinco has more.
- Join Michael Singh and Mike Newell, and other TFC fans for a pre-match chat on Twitter Spaces ahead of kick-off.
How to Watch
VS: New York City FC
Time: 1 PM EST
Location: Yankee Stadium
Channel: TSN 4, CTV