by Matt Hoffman (@mhoff)
By getting Toronto FC to the playoffs, TFC coach Greg Vanney has already done something his eight predecessors haven’t. Vanney now is three results away from returning to the MLS Cup putting his name up there with the likes of Bruce Arena, Steve Nichols, and Dom Kinnear; MLS coaching royalty.
Toronto is not there. Not yet, anyways. But after a snapping a long-held MLS record, not taking the championship match would mean a major upset had happened along the way. The way Columbus is playing given their recent tales of internal turbulence, a MLS Cup appearance would certainly benefit their scrappy rags-to-riches narrative. NYCFC, if they were to somehow emerge victorious in the deep hole they’ve dug against Columbus, would suddenly grasp the mantle of a team of destiny.
Perhaps the best opponent left in the East, the team who has the greatest pool of talent, coaching, tactics, and will is the team play opposite of Toronto right now-the New York Red Bulls.
Toronto’s 2-1 win at Red Bull Stadium was impressive but could be easily flipped on it’s head should the Red Bulls get an away goal and play the stifling defense they are capable of.
Toronto caught New York in game one. “[Toronto] wanted us to have the ball and then wanted us to turn the ball over in the middle of the field and then catch us on the counter,” Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch said following the first leg. “It took us far too long to figure that out, and we were trying to get the message out on the field, but it wasn’t clear enough, I think, and so it took us too long.”
The good news for Marsch is his team has had a few days rest and a 90 minutes to fix those errors. Unfortunately, they’ll have to do it in Toronto, where TFC have a solid home form, winning 13 of their last 15 home matches.
It didn’t matter that the Red Bulls won most of the statistical categories in the first leg: possession, shots on goal, passing percentage or even that they owned the middle of the field for the most part; Toronto took to the flanks and proved effective at creating goalscoring opportunities from out wide. Toronto had two shots on goal, and both went in.
Yet New York is very much in it thanks to the penalty Daniel Royer converted after a foul in the box on Bradley Wright-Phillips. Because if there is any team capable of beating Toronto, it might just be Toronto.
New York Red Bulls