TORONTO, Ont. - The Reds return home from their trip to Philadelphia and will now host Eastern Conference rivals New York City FC at BMO Field looking to start a new streak after having their five game unbeaten run come to an end on Wednesday night. Kick-off is scheduled for 8 PM EST and as always, can be watched on TSN4.
Wednesday night’s loss did not come as a surprise to head coach Javier Perez. Speaking to the media after the match, Perez spoke about the challenges that come with a team re-learning good habits.
“This is a big red flag that we were expecting at some point,” said Perez. “You make some steps forward and at one point you make one step backward: it was tonight. We came flat in the first half. The team was sending some signs that it was going to be the case, but it was one of these games that you just have to go through and the only positive thing is it was an exercise to stay in the game.”
Over their five match unbeaten streak, the Reds had done well to not allow the game to get out of hand in the first-half. That wasn’t the case as Philadelphia scored three first half goals to seal the game. The Reds have now conceded a league high 16 goals in the first half, including nine in the first 15 minutes of matches.
Since returning home to BMO Field, the Reds have struggled offensively scoring three times since returning to BMO Field. While Toronto has looked much more solid defensively, it will be a worry for interim head coach Perez. While Yeferson Soteldo and Jozy Altidore, along with the Gold Cup returnees will surely help, the absence of Alejandro Pozuelo is very noticeable in the Reds offence.
Pozuelo’s availability for Saturday still remains unclear. After missing out on the last two matches, the Spaniard is still listed as questionable heading into the weekend. Pozuelo’s inclusion would undoubtedly be a big boost for the offence. Striker Dom Dwyer and full-back Auro Jr. are also listed as questionable, and may not participate in this weekend’s matchup. Tsubasa Endoh has been ruled out, and as announced by the club earlier on Friday, Ayo Akinola underwent surgery and will be out the remainder of the season.
New York City come into Toronto riding a four game unbeaten streak in which the Blues have scored 10 goals, which has included 4-1 and 5-0 wins over the Columbus Crew and the Orlando City respectively. New York, who have scored 30 goals, currently sit only behind New England (33) in goals scored in the Eastern Conference.
While the Blues sport a strong record at Yankee Stadium securing six wins in nine home matches, the road has not been so kind for NYCFC, who have managed to pick up two wins in seven matches away from New York, totalling eight of a possible 21 points on the road this season. Given their record, It’s no coincidence then that New York has managed to score eight goals in seven matches on the road, compared to 22 goals in nine matches at Yankee Stadium.
Leading the way for the Blues in the goal scoring department is winger Jesús Medina, who leads his club with seven goals. While Medina is the leading goal scorer, City have multiple goal threats in their lineup. Forwards Valentín Castellanos and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi have also each contributed six goals this campaign to help New York become one of the best goal scoring sides in the league this season.
In their most recent outing, the Blues visited the Chicago Fire where it ended in a scoreless draw. NYCFC’s 0-0 draw with the Fire ended the Blues’ 25 game regular season streak with at least a goal. The Blues did play the final 17 minutes down a man as midfielder Keaton Parks picked up his second yellow and was dismissed from the match. With the red card, Parks, who has featured in 16 games this season, will be suspended.
Along with Parks, the Blues will also be without Heber and Talles Magno for this weekend’s match as both have been ruled out through injury. Heber has not featured so far this season, and Magno has featured in four matches, so the Blues Head Coach Ronny Deila will have most of his squad available for selection in Toronto.
This will be the second matchup between NYCFC and TFC this season. The clubs previously met in May at Yankee Stadium and played to a 1-1 draw. On that afternoon, NYCFC winger Medina put the Blues ahead through a set piece, before Jacob Shaffelburg scored his first of the season to equalize.
Over the 19 times that two clubs have matched up, it has been closely contested. The Reds hold a slight advantage with seven wins, but the Blues have picked up six wins of their own, and the two clubs have played to a draw on six other occasions, in regular season and MLS Cup Playoff action.
Wednesday’s loss, the first under Perez, will have been a setback for the Reds - but Saturday night will be an opportunity for the Reds to show they can bounce back against their rivals.
Kick-off: 8 PM EST
Opponent: New York City FC
Location: BMO Field, Toronto