In the past, the fixture between the New York Red Bulls and Toronto FC would be highly anticipated. The usual two powerhouses have since been reduced to one this season as Toronto has failed to catch form.
They cannot seem to cure their horrid CONCACAF Champions League hangover. Toronto lost in penalties to Guadalajara at the end of April and have since won just three total matches.
In that time they have had no problems scoring goals. Toronto has scored 10 goals in their last four matches alone, proving they still have their deadly instincts in attack. The real problem has been their defensive record.
Toronto is tied for the third worst defensive record in the East. They cannot seem to lock down a core four to run the backline, and the results are proving it.
Just last match, head coach Greg Vanney wedged Gregory van der Wiel, a long time fullback, into a central defenders position. The result was a 2-1 loss to NYCFC and the clubs fourth defeat in the last eight matches.
Vanney needs to fix his defensive frailties if he wants to revive his team, but injuries are doing him no favors. Drew Moore and Ashtone Morgan have both missed significant time this season, so until they return to the starting lineup, Toronto will need to make do with their squad.
The Red Bulls, on the other hand, could not have a stronger defense. In fact, two starting defenders for the team were recently selected to the MLS All Star roster.
Tim Parker and Michael Murillo will be representing the team along with Bradley Wright-Phillips when the MLS All Stars take on Juventus on August 1st. This is a huge accomplishment for all three players, but especially for the two defenders who have played so well this season.
Murillo has been away with his country Panama on World Cup duty, so he will likely not be back in the lineup for another week or so. His play for the Red Bulls at the start of the season was great, though, so he will be a welcomed sight back in the team.
Parker has been nothing short of stellar since joining the team. Apart from the MLS All Star roster, Parker also earned his first United States Mens National team call up.
His play for the Red Bulls defense puts a lot of fans at ease knowing that Aurelien Collin no longer is a necessity in the starting XI. Paired with Aaron Long, the two have been absolute units for the team.
One slight problem the Red Bulls need to address going into this match is a replacement for Daniel Royer. The Austrian picked up a deserved red card after going in late on a challenge with his studs up.
Royer has really not caught form this season, but his four goals seemed to have all come at the perfect time. Somehow, his red card aided the team to victory as they scored three unanswered goals after going down a man.
A start for Alex Muyl could be on taps as Marsh looks to simply fill the spot until Royer returns. Muyl may not be the most technically skilled or even the biggest fan favorite, but there is no denying his work ethic on the field.
Replacing the suspended Royer could also be youngster Derrick Etienne Jr. The Haitian sensation has made quite the impact off the bench this season, scoring three goals in his limited play time. This would be a perfect time for him to show off to Marsch just how good he can be.
No matter who replaces Royer, the Red Bulls know they cannot slip up against this clearly weakened Toronto team. The teams away form has been a revelation compared to prior seasons, so they should be okay going to BMO Field for this match.
A win would see the Red Bulls jump both the Crew and NYCFC into second place in the East. They still have four games in hand over the Crew and two on City heading to Toronto, so there is plenty of time for Marsch and his team to climb the tables.
The game will be televised on Fox following the World Cup as well, which is great news for Wright-Phillips. His talent seems to multiply when he is broadcasted nation wide, so Toronto could be in for a long game from Mr. 99.