Toronto FC enter the MLS playoffs for the third time in club history, and the third consecutive season.
Their first tilt at the MLS Cup ended with a hammering by the Montreal Impact in the knockout round, but they were a miracle save away from claiming their first championship a year later.
Another regular season later, Toronto go into the postseason as the favourites to win the Cup for the first time. They amassed a record-breaking 69 points to claim the Supporters’ Shield and will host the final again should they progress through the two rounds now in front of them.
Up first is the New York Red Bulls.
These two clubs have never met in postseason play. The Red Bulls, who finished sixth in the East, were 4-0 victors over a depleted Chicago Fire in the knockout round and will host the first leg before visiting BMO Field on Sunday.
Toronto beat New York at home a month ago, 4-2, and drew 1-1 in New Jersey earlier in the year.
Kick-off: 7 p.m. ET
Venue: Red Bull Arena, Harrison
What’s a good result for Toronto here?
On Sunday night, the Seattle Sounders - who were, to be fair, down a few key players - set out their stall very clearly to take a draw out of their first leg on the road against the Vancouver Whitecaps. If they win at home, they’re through.
Toronto will, you would imagine, be satisfied with a similar outcome but want to ask a few more questions of the Red Bulls and grab an away goal or two.
It’s hard to imagine the Reds not creating at least a couple of good chances in any game these days. Results usually rest on whether or not they can convert them and play a mistake-free game in their own half.
I’ve got a lot of time for Tyler Adams.
We don’t see many 18-year-olds in this league, and even fewer that not only keep their head above water but are genuinely impactful on a consistent basis.
Adams is that, and might be as high as fourth on the list of players TFC need to be aware of and contain at Red Bull Arena.
He’s playing at wing-back at the moment but I think his future is in central midfield, and that means he plays the position in an interesting way; he’s comfortable coming inside and finding little pockets of space as well as attacking down the flank.
Adams is still a teenager, though, and I imagine Toronto will try to contain him by occupying him with plenty of defensive work. The Reds’ lineup tends to tilt to a more attacking left side, and Justin Morrow, Victor Vazquez and Sebastian Giovinco love to team up and create overloads.
The opposition view
Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch says Justin Morrow’s hat-trick the last time these two clubs met is a lesson that his team cannot simply key in on the ‘big three’:
Maybe in the past they were a three-man team, and this year they’re not. You can throw Vazquez in there, you can throw Morrow, you can throw a lot of different guys. They’re really a complete team, a well-rounded team. We’re going to have to be at our absolute best, and we know that. We’re not afraid of that; in fact, we’re excited for that challenge.
TV channel & live stream
TV: TSN 3 & 4 (Canada), FS1 (USA)
Stream: TSN Go (Canada), Fox Sports Go (USA), MLS Live (out of market)
Radio: TSN 1050 (Toronto), Red Bulls Radio (online)
Greg Vanney will have a full squad of players at his disposal, with no known injuries to deal with.
New York will be without defender Gideon Baah and forward Mike Grella for the rest of the season, while Aurelien Collin’s participation in the playoffs is also in doubt and he will not feature here.
New York: Robles; Murillo, Long, Perrinelle; Adams, Davis, Felipe, Royer, Lawrence; Kljestan; Wright-Phillips.
Subs: Meara, Muyl, Lade, Veron, Etienne Jr., Bezecourt, Escobar.
Toronto: Bono; Zavaleta, Moor, Mavinga; Beitashour, Delgado, Bradley, Vazquez, Morrow; Altidore, Giovinco.
Subs: Irwin, Hagglund, Osorio, Hasler, Cooper, Edwards, Ricketts.