For the first time this season, the New York Red Bulls are set to take on future MVP Sebastian Giovinco and Toronto F.C. With RBNY unbeaten in their last five, what can we expect from Jesse Marsch and his side on Saturday night?
First things first: Marsch is going to have to shuffle his back line again, with Damien Perrinelle being retroactively punished by MLS for punching NYCFC's Jefferson Mena. The center back, who had just returned from suspension, will miss two games. This means that either Karl Ouimette or a recently rehabilitated Ronald Zubar will start alongside Matt Miazga.
Also troubling the Red Bulls' defense is Kemar Lawrence's hamstring. One of the most consistent players for the Red Bulls this season, Lawrence did not practice on Wednesday. Nonetheless, Marsch remained optimistic:
"We're hopeful that he can recover in time but we want to be cautious with him to make sure we don't further injure it. He's had a lot of games and a lot of minutes this summer; we're kind of in that position for a lot of our players."
Rotations in the defense could create some problems for New York, who are facing one of the best offensive talents the league has to offer in Sebastian Giovinco. The diminutive Italian has 16 goals and 11 assists this season, making the MVP award his to lose.
Red Bulls fans might be more concerned with the return of Jozy Altidore, who will be playing against his former club for the first time. While Altidore hasn't exactly stuffed the score sheet, the Jersey native has scored 7 goals in 14 games, amounting to a goal every other start. Even though that ratio reflects kindly on Altidore's season, he hasn't scored in 3 games, it's still the "one in two" rate of scoring associated with a top-tier striker.
The Red Bulls are currently in second place in the Eastern Conference, with 36 points in 22 games. Toronto are two places behind with 31 points in 22 games. A win would go a long way towards helping the Red Bulls catch D.C. United, who currently have 44 points in 26 games.
Players to Watch
For the Red Bulls, Dax McCarty will once again be the most important player on the pitch. Crucial in breaking up Andrea Pirlo's build ups against NYCFC, Dax is going to have to be at his best if he is going to stop TFC from getting the ball to Giovinco. Sebastian Giovinco has been getting it done, and he's been able to do so consistently. When he's not scoring hat tricks, he's letting his teammates get in on the fun. He could prove to be the most difficult player Miazga has had to go up against all season.
For all of Toronto's firepower, they have a leaky defense. With the third-most goals conceded in MLS with 38, Toronto are going to have a tough time keeping the Red Bulls off of the scoreboard. That being said, revamping half of the back line isn't going to do RBNY any favors. Score: 3-2, Red Bulls.