For a second consecutive Friday night at BMO Field, Toronto FC’s task is to bring one of MLS’ seemingly most-improved sides down a peg or two.
The Reds were successful against the Chicago Fire, recording a relatively comfortable 3-1 victory to quell the momentum behind Bastian Schweinsteiger’s new team and edge up the Eastern Conference standings.
This time their opponent is the Houston Dynamo, who only Chicago were worse than in MLS last season but are now sitting pretty in third place in the West. Like the Fire, their strong start has been founded on good home form aided by a somewhat favourable schedule but whereas Chicago have attempted to become a better side in possession, Houston have relied on the counter-attack and set pieces and tend to be more effective when they have less of the ball.
Wilmer Cabrera experimented with a 4-4-2 diamond last weekend and enjoyed a 2-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes, but generally the Dynamo have played a 4-3-3 formation and left their dangerous front three (comprised of Alberth Elis, Erick Torres and Romell Quioto, when they are all fit) high up the field, where they wait for long passes to reach them.
Toronto will feel confident of recording a second consecutive victory for the first time this season, though, having improved the mood around the club significantly by beating the Fire. The victory felt like a weight off Sebastian Giovinco’s shoulders after the Italian’s slow start to the season, while Marky Delgado played like the missing piece of the puzzle in midfield and the back three took a step forward without its leader in Drew Moor.
We can probably expect an unchanged lineup as a result, though rotation is not impossible - and will certainly be coming soon - as Toronto enter their very busy May schedule.
TV channel & live stream
TV: TSN 4 & 5 (Toronto), KUBE-TV (Houston)
Stream: TSN Go (Toronto), MLS Live (out-of-market)
Radio: TSN 1050 (Toronto), CBS Sports 650 (Houston)
The minor corrective procedure on Drew Moor’s heartbeat appears to have gone as planned, but the defender will not feature for Toronto in this match. Chris Mavinga is also out and while Clint Irwin has trained, he is not ready to return yet.
Jason Hernandez and Ashtone Morgan, meanwhile, are also back on the practice field but unlikely to be involved on Friday night as they build up their fitness.
Houston are without George Malki, who has torn his ACL and is done for the season, while fellow defender Agus is questionable with a hamstring problem. Romell Quioto, who scored three goals in three games to start the season, is expected to be fit to start after a dislocated shoulder.
Toronto: Bono; Zavaleta, Hagglund, Morrow; Beitashour, Delgado, Bradley, Vazquez, Edwards; Altidore, Giovinco.
Subs: Pais, Cheyrou, Endoh, Ricketts, Osorio, Cooper, Chapman.
Houston: Willis; DeLaGarza, Machado, Leonardo, Beasley; Cabezas; Boniek Garcia, Alexander; Alex; Elis, Torres.
Subs: Deric, Anibaba, Sanchez, Wenger, Quioto, Remick, Manotas.