That’s a tough place to go, but the alarming thing about the two reverses that have followed is how winnable they looked on paper; New York faced the Philadelphia Union away and the LA Galaxy at home. Though their wins over the Red Bulls can be counted as signs of progress, neither side occupies a playoff spot at the moment despite the three points they gained.
They both netted three goals against Jesse Marsch’s team, however, who are badly missing their best centre-back in Aurelien Collin - not to mention the departed Dax McCarty, who has helped the Chicago Fire rise from another year at the bottom of the Eastern Conference in 2016 to a position two points above the Red Bulls with a game in hand.
Three defeats on the bounce as convincing as the Red Bulls have suffered usually mean that something is fundamentally broken. That is not to say it cannot be corrected or that New York’s season is anywhere near in the balance at this stage, but Toronto should not greatly fear a ‘reaction’ game from their opponents on Friday night after their 19-match unbeaten run at Red Bull Arena was snapped. The issues go beyond complacency or mentality.
Of greater threat to their chances will be Marsch going back to the drawing board, watching a lot of tape and figuring out exactly what is not working.
A few things immediately become apparent. The first is Dax-related; the Red Bulls’ 4-2-3-1 system demands that the two central midfielders get through a lot of work both protecting the defence and supplying Sacha Kljestan with the ball, and though Tyler Adams is hugely promising they have no all-rounder on McCarty’s level. Take a look at the gap between their defence and midfield on Romain Alessandrini’s second goal against the Galaxy:
There is also a personnel problem at right-back, where Chris Duvall was not really directly replaced. No one has quite made the job their own since his departure, and the combination of that and the Red Bulls’ tendency to try to clog the middle rather than shield their full-backs could make this another game in which Raheem Edwards has a chance to have his say.
When things are not working defensively and in the build-up, it naturally affects how much influence Kljestan and Bradley Wright-Phillips are able to have on the game. Toronto should be aiming to make an aggressive start in a bid to prevent the Red Bulls from settling into a rhythm and if you see Kljestan coming deep in search of the ball, you’ll know things are going well.
TV channel & live stream
TV: TSN 2 (Canada), MSG (New York)
Stream: TSN Go (Canada), MSG GO (New York), MLS Live (out of market)
Radio: TSN 1050 (Toronto), Red Bulls Radio (New York)
Toronto are without Sebastian Giovinco and Nick Hagglund, who picked up injuries against Minnesota United. Ashtone Morgan is with TFC II as he continues to build up his fitness while Jonathan Osorio was being monitored this week after coming off against the Columbus Crew with a racing heartbeat.
Aurelien Collin is unlikely to return in time for this match for the Red Bulls, while Tyler Adams is with the USA at the Under-20 World Cup.
New York: Robles; Murillo, Perrinelle, Long, Lawrence; Muyl, Felipe, Kljestan, Grella; Wright-Phillips, Gulbrandsen.
Subs: Meara, Royer, Lade, Zizzo, Veron, Etienne, Davis.
Toronto: Bono; Zavaleta, Moor, Mavinga; Beitashour, Delgado, Bradley, Vazquez, Morrow; Ricketts, Altidore.
Subs: Irwin, Cheyrou, Chapman, Hernandez, Edwards, Cooper.