TORONTO — In the wake of Sunday’s disappointing loss to New England, Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley took solace in the fact that his team would be back in action Wednesday against New York City FC.
“It’s the best thing. As opposed to having a week to sit around to watch and think and talk,” said Bradley, victimized on the final goal in the 3-1 loss to the visiting Revolution.
“It comes quick and we’ll make sure we’re ready,” he added.
Toronto’s first visit to Yankee Stadium on July 12 was anything but routine, however. And NYCFC has reloaded since.
“They’ve got a couple of new guys since we played them last,” Toronto forward Robbie Findley said dryly.
That would be star midfielders Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard.
Last time out, referee Ted Unkel pointed to the penalty spot an MLS-record four times in a wild 4-4 tie on the narrow makeshift pitch in the Bronx. Toronto’s Sebastian Giovinco scored three goals in nine minutes, the third-fastest hat trick in MLS history, and added an assist.
New York captain David Villa, who scored both goals in a 2-0 win in Toronto on June 20, answered with another brace.
“Everything about it on the day seemed very hectic,” Toronto coach Greg Vanney said of the July encounter. “Fast, chaotic.”
“I hope it’s not crazy (Wednesday) like that one but I hope we can get ourselves out in front and then play with the position of a lead,” he added. “That would be nice.”
Nice because Toronto is 8-0-0 when it scores first. But conversely it is 0-10-2 if it trails going into the half.
Vanney sees Toronto as a good frontrunner because when teams chase his club, it opens up space for Giovinco and others to work their magic.
Toronto (11-12-4) has five straight home games after the New York visit before it wraps up the regular season in Montreal. Vanney’s club has lost its last two and has work to do if wants to avoid opening the playoffs on the road.
New York, meanwhile, has lost its last three and won just two of its last 10 (2-6-2), a stretch that started with the July tie with Toronto.
At 7-14-7, Jason Kreis’s team is ninth in the East, four points out of the playoff picture but also only one out of the basement.
Defence has been a major issue for the expansion team. It has been outscored 9-3 over its last three losses and ranks 18th in the league in goals conceded at 1.71 per game.
Toronto is even worse, in 18th spot for yielding 1.74 goals a game. But TFC ranks second in offence (1.70 goals a game), compared to ninth for NYCFC (1.39).
New York City’s statistical profile is poor in other regards. It is a league-worst 2-9-0 in one-goal games. And the New Yorkers have the league’s worst home winning percentage (.429, 4-6-4).
Like Giovinco, Villa has dominated NYCFC’s offence. The Spanish star has 15 goals and seven assists, playing a direct roles in 56 per cent of his club’s 39 goals.
Next on New York’s scoring list are Patrick Mullins and Thomas McNamara, who have five goals apiece.
Giovinco, with 17 goals and 13 assists, has had a close hand in 65 per cent of Toronto’s 46 goals.
Villa was substituted at halftime of Saturday’s 2-1 loss in Dallas with a hamstring problem. Pirlo and Lampard were both taken off in the 66th minute.
Toronto will be bolstered by the return of holding midfielder Collen Warner from suspension. Influential midfielder Benoit Cheyrou should also be back from an ankle injury.
A Toronto win would be a franchise-record 12th for the season.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press