Toronto FC are in Foxborough this weekend looking to reverse the script at a venue they've always struggled at, just like Red Bull Arena. TFC are 2–4–7 all-time against the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium.
Honestly, there aren't many teams in MLS that TFC have a great away record against, but the Revs in particular are a conference rival that Toronto struggle against.
Anyway, Toronto will finish up a gruelling set of games this weekend, with two weeks off to rest after they play their fifth game in 16 days.
The Revs are a hot-and-cold playoff bubble team, currently sitting eighth in the East on 17 points. This could be a good opportunity for TFC to improve their lead in the conference heading into the international break, but it’s not an easy fixture.
Here are three things to look out for when Toronto visit Massachusetts.
1. Testing new ground
The home of the Revs (and the Patriots) recently got a field upgrade. Gillette Stadium debuted its new FieldTurf surface just a few weeks ago, and stadium officials are singing its praises like it's real grass.
TFC have bad memories on the Foxborough turf, with Danny Koevermans’ career effectively ended there in 2012 when he tore his ACL. The new surface is reportedly much better, but it's understandable for the Reds to be wary of it.
Sebastian Giovinco hasn't played in either of TFC’s two games on turf this season, in Vancouver and Seattle. His distaste for it is well documented. That said, he did travel with the team this weekend. The question of whether or not to play him is a tough one.
Seba did just return from injury on Wednesday, so it might not be wise to be using him on turf now. Still, with the break coming after, the Italian seems eager to get back into game shape as soon as possible. If he plays, he'll probably start, maybe playing an hour or so. TFC could definitely use him with Jozy Altidore out.
2. Defensive positioning
It'll be critical that TFC keep their shape at the back this weekend. The Revs aren't the most potent team in MLS overall, but they're very dangerous at home. New England have scored 15 goals at Gillette this year, compared to just eight on the road.
Lee Nguyen and Juan Agudelo have chipped in the most offensively, with six goals apiece this season. They, along with Kei Kamara, form a front trio that can do a lot of damage.
For that reason, I think Justin Morrow slots in at left wing-back instead of Raheem Edwards. Greg Vanney will likely opt for the safer, slightly more defensive option there, especially without Michael Bradley.
Toronto’s back three looks great with Drew Moor back in the fold. It'll be important that he take control of the 18-yard box on Saturday. Chris Mavinga's height will hopefully get in the way of Kamara and Agudelo, both of whom like to challenge for the ball in the air.
3. Attacking the full-backs
To me, New England’s greatest weakness is their back four. They'll probably play with Antonio Mlinar Delamea and Benjamin Angoua in the middle, and Chris Tierney and Andrew Farrell out wide.
The Revs have allowed 21 goals this season, much more than TFC's 12. Seventeen of those have come from open play. If Toronto attacks the flanks with pace, they'll be able to expose the full-backs pretty well.
If Edwards comes on later in the match, that'll be all him. Morrow can certainly do it too, though, as can Steven Beitashour. Jordan Hamilton will probably play up top, and he's good at covering ground toward the side of the field.
TFC need to attack down the wings and try to get in behind Tierney and Farrell. If they can do that (which they did pretty well against Orlando City), then goals will come.