Toronto FC host the New York Red Bulls with a place in the Eastern Conference final on the line.
The hosts secured a 2-1 aggregate lead in the first leg of this tie at Red Bull Arena on Monday night, but they are unlikely to look to simply defend it. TFC have only lost once at home all season and if they score the first goal, the Red Bulls will need to reply with two unanswered simply to force extra time.
This is one of three conference semi-final second legs being played today. The winners will face either New York City FC or, more probably, the Columbus Crew, who go to the Bronx with a 4-1 aggregate lead established.
In the Western Conference, the Seattle Sounders are through after a 2-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps on Thursday and if the Portland Timbers can beat the Houston Dynamo at home, they will set up another Cascadia Cup matchup.
Kick-off: 3 p.m. ET
Venue: BMO Field, Toronto
Will Drew Moor and Victor Vazquez play?
Both trained on Saturday, and Vazquez has seemed fairly confident all week that he’ll be ready to go.
We’ve heard less from Moor and there are plenty of the opinion that Nick Hagglund should start on form, regardless of the veteran’s health.
I expect Moor to be back in the lineup unless there is a real injury risk.
I’m a big fan of Hagglund and he played well on Monday, making a number of vital clearances and interceptions as TFC came under pressure. But it’s worth noting that Toronto were very much in control of the match until Moor went off, and then found themselves boxed into their own half immediately afterwards.
How much of that can be attributed to Moor’s presence is up for debate; the effect of his experience, leadership and organizational qualities is difficult to quantify. But it does exist, and while the Texan may not be as quick or athletic as Hagglund nowadays there is still a case to be made for him when it comes to prevention rather than cure.
Sebastian Giovinco versus Michael Murillo is one to watch.
Murillo is big, fast and rangy and Giovinco had problems escaping him at times during the first leg without much support from his teammates.
But the Red Bulls defender, though gifted, has an error or two in his game and Giovinco eventually took advantage in Harrison, drawing a foul off him and then whipping the resulting free-kick in over his head.
Murillo was supposed to drop off the wall to block the attempt if it cleared it, but got his timing wrong. Sacha Kljestan called it one of “the little details that annoy me” after the game and though he later backtracked, it was half-hearted at best.
Giovinco has played much better at home than he was away this year, and Murillo will need to be very good not to see his season end rather miserably.
The opposition view
Toronto played cautiously on the road, but you shouldn’t expect the same from the Red Bulls. They know they need to score - ideally early. Here’s Luis Robles:
“I think our mindset is just to score more goals than them. Of course, it’s going to be beneficial for us to hold them down, and in the back of our mind defensively we take that to heart - we want to hold them down, we want to show ourselves that we’re up to the task and we’re able to shut down the best attack in this league. But even with goals coming into play because of the way that it played out, if we win 3-2, we’re in. If we win 2-1, we’re in overtime. So the idea is to go there and score more goals than them.”
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TV channel & live stream
TV: TSN 1 & 4 (Canada), ESPN (USA)
Stream: TSN Go (Canada), WatchESPN (USA), MLS Live (out of market)
Radio: TSN 1050 (Toronto), Red Bulls Radio (online)
Drew Moor and Victor Vazquez trained in full for the first time on Saturday and could start after going off injured in the first leg.
Otherwise, Toronto remain injury free.
New York will be without defender Gideon Baah and forward Mike Grella for the rest of the season, while Aurelien Collin may not feature again until 2018 either.
Muhamed Keita, who was not in New York’s squad for the first leg, is questionable with a hamstring problem.
Toronto: Bono; Zavaleta, Moor, Mavinga; Beitashour, Delgado, Bradley, Vazquez, Morrow; Altidore, Giovinco.
Subs: Irwin, Hagglund, Hasler, Edwards, Osorio, Cooper, Ricketts.
New York: Robles; Murillo, Long, Perrinelle; Adams, Veron, Felipe, Royer, Lawrence; Kljestan; Wright-Phillips.
Subs: Escobar, Bezecourt, Muyl, Etienne, Meara, Lade, Davis.