The international break is over and NYCFC are back in action with one of the biggest games of the season so far.
Managing Editor Mark Booth picks out five things to look out for when Toronto FC come to town on Wednesday night…
Back in the Groove
That felt like one long international break… Seriously.
They always feel longer on the back of a defeat but that will be fully flushed out of the system by now and the squad will be looking forward to a first home game in three weeks.
This will be just the sixth all-time meeting between NYCFC and Toronto but it’s already a fixture with a rich historical narrative thread.
Of course, it was Greg Vanney’s men who ended our first MLS Playoffs run in comprehensive style last year but we’re unbeaten in Regular Season play against The Reds, drawing three and winning two of our five meetings.
This is a game which could hardly be any more intriguing as it pits together the second and third placed teams from the Eastern Conference.
A victory for NYCFC would take us to within two points of the Canadian outfit and give us an opportunity to leapfrog them with a win over Chicago on Saturday afternoon.
However, Toronto are one of the league’s best road teams, picking up an average of 1.5 points per game away from BMO Field which is the second best average in all of MLS.
At the same time, NYCFC have won four of our last five games at Yankee Stadium, including that 3-1 victory over Minnesota United at the end of June, scoring in 19 consecutive home matches.
It’s set up beautifully for a clash of two in-form teams with MLS Cup ambitions as we enter into the second half of the season and the competition really heats up.
Gold Cup Changes
U.S Men’s National Team Head Coach Bruce Arena made six changes to his Gold Cup squad yesterday and it’s fair to say NYCFC came out pretty well from the alterations with this Toronto game in mind.
For one, Sean Johnson has returned to the club following his participation in the group stages and is in line to return to the squad after missing the victory over Minnesota and the defeat to Vancouver Whitecaps.
On the opposite side, both Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley have been called in to the roster, meaning they will miss Wednesday night’s showdown at Yankee Stadium.
In theory, this should make NYCFC’s task easier but Toronto have quality backups and plenty of other players capable of inflicting damage on their opponents, so Vieira paying too much attention to those not travelling to New York for this one.
The international break did come in handy in one respect as it allowed the team’s medical staff more time to get those wounded in battle back into condition for NYCFC’s Playoffs push.
Maxi Moralez returned to action in the dying minutes of our defeat to Vancouver last time out and is now fully fit and ready to continue the form which has him at the top of our assist rankings.
With Miguel Camargo and Rodney Wallace still away with their nations at the Gold Cup, there is still a wing spot up for grabs which will interest the likes of Jonathan Lewis and Tommy McNamara.
Yangel Herrera limped out of the game in Vancouver but Vieira will be hoping to call upon the Venezuelan as NYCFC averages 2.5 goals for and 0.9 against with him on the field, compared to 1.4 goals for and 1.3 goals against without him.
Case of the Ex
One player who’ll be fondly remembered by those inside Yankee Stadium on Wednesday night will be walking out on the other side of the tunnel for the first time.
Jason Hernandez’s place in NYCFC history is assured as a member of that first roster from our inaugural season.
He went on to appear 57 times for the boys in blue over the course of two seasons before joining Toronto in the offseason where he’s impressed in his four starts.
Jason will certainly be sure of a warm welcome on this, his first return to his home city as a Toronto FC player.