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Luke Wileman on Chris Armas’ first return to Red Bull Arena

Toronto FC head coach Chris Armas makes his return to his old stomping grounds this weekend as the Reds search for their first MLS win this season.

DC United v New York Red Bulls
Head coach Chris Armas, formerly of New York Red Bulls, pats Alejandro Romero Gamarra #10 in the 1st half of the Major League Soccer match against D.C. United at Red Bull Arena
Photo by Ira L. Black - Corbis/Getty Images

Having crashed out of the Concacaf Champions League, Chris Armas needs to rally his team for a significant game on Saturday. TFC will come up against Armas’ former club, the New York Red Bulls, and if there was ever a time for a statement victory—it’s now.

But the numbers don’t look very promising. TFC carry an all-time record of 13 losses, 2 draws and only 2 wins at Red Bull Arena, so how likely is it that Armas can get his side back on track after a difficult start to the season?

On the latest episode of Waking The Red Weekly presented by Footy Talks, TSN’s play-by-play voice Luke Wileman shared his views on the early days of the Armas tenure and what we can expect from Saturday’s game:

“I think after everything that’s gone on with Chris Armas, Ali Curtis as well, this is going to be a game with a lot more meaning. Chris Armas will probably give the answer that everyone would expect like ‘yes, it’s a bit special but right now I’m at a different club and what we do here is more important than going back and proving a point to anybody else.’”

“But any time, any day, any year, going into Red Bull Arena is always going to be an issue and it has been for TFC on a number of occasions down through the years. I remember four and five goal defeats or players getting sent off—even back to that rainy night at Giants Stadium on GolTV in 2009 when they needed a point to get into the playoffs and lost 5-0. The storm delayed us for however long and it was an absolute disaster.”

“This is going to mean so much more to Chris Armas because of the way that he left. But I think, although he’s made some changes, it’s not yet a Chris Armas team in terms of having enough time to get to the standard and level that he wants.”

“So while I think he would love nothing more than to go there and come away with a positive result on Saturday, I don't think it’s all doom and gloom if that doesn’t happen. Whether he’s made the right decision and whether TFC is a bigger club than the Red Bulls doesn’t really hinge on the outcome of Saturday.”

“I’m sure Chris Armas would love nothing more than to bring Yeferson Soteldo off the bench on Saturday for the last ten minutes and have him bang in the winning goal at Red Bull Arena, and to be able to leave there with three points in his pocket.”

“But when you think back to that playoff win in 2017 for example, to be able to go there and do that against the Red Bulls just showed how special that 2017 team was. Being able to go on and win MLS Cup showed that was a group that had the ability to get the job done. Although there are still a lot of those 2017 players within the TFC team now, that team had something special.

Yes, there’s big game experience amongst the TFC lineup at the moment but there isn’t that intangible of knowing that in any game—at any moment—you can win it.”

With Toronto FC fielding a strong starting XI vs. Cruz Azul midweek, it remains to be seen what calibre of lineup Armas will field this weekend, especially considering the Reds have a condensed schedule coming up in the next seven days.

Following Saturday’s match vs. NYRB, TFC will play the reigning MLS Cup champions Columbus Crew SC four days later before taking on New York City FC three days after that.

While it certainly won’t be make-or-break, if Armas can pull off a win over his former team on Saturday, it would be a major statement, and perhaps a significant first step in the right direction as the Reds seek their first win of the 2021 Major League Soccer campaign.

For everything TFC - check out the full episode of this week’s Waking the Red Weekly now, also available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify! Kindly like, rate, and subscribe!