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Red Bulls head north to face Toronto FC

The Red Bulls will be on the road for a mid-week clash against Toronto FC

MLS: Eastern Conference Semifinal-New York Red Bulls at Toronto FC
The Red Bulls will face a difficult challenge in two former members of the club and two faces of the U.S. men’s national team.
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

HANOVER, N.J. – After a thrilling Hudson River Derby against local rivals New York City FC, the New York Red Bulls have to move quickly and reset their focus on the next challenge: a midweek trip to Canada to take on Toronto FC for the first time this season.

Toronto has had an up and down season since crashing out early in the CONCACAF Champions League against Panamanian side club Atletico Independiente, earning 26 points in 20 games.

But, don’t be fooled, as they have some big weapons back in Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley, who have returned from Gold Cup duty with the U.S. men’s national team. The return of those two will present a big challenge for the Red Bulls when the opening whistle blows at BMO Field.

“We’ve played against them before, it’s not something we aren’t up to task of, or not something we haven’t faced before,” Tim Parker said. “Jozy (Altidore) is still a number one for the national team, at least in my eyes he is.”

“I think for us he has that tendency to score goals, and for us we just have to keep tabs on him, limiting his chances and frustrating him all match long.”

The danger man for TFC has been Alejandro Pozuelo, who has eight goals and eight assists in 16 matches since coming over from Belgian club Genk. He has created big moments for a TFC team that needed it in the wake of Sebastian Giovinco’s departure. But is there a similarity or difference between Pozuelo and Giovinco?

“It’s different,” Armas said. “There’s one Pozuelo and there’s one Giovinco. Giovinco was very special in our league and he earned a certain status, because he could do it year after year, because he won the grand prize. Even how they operate is different. They are similarly high up the field, getting underneath Jozy (Altidore).

“They are intelligent. There are some comparisons. They are competitors, but Giovinco’s stature and how small he was, and how quick he was. Such a difficult player to defend, but their importance is what you want to talk about. Pozuelo is a winner and he gives them an edge.”

Getting back to the Hudson River Derby match, Omir Fernandez, who is a native of the Bronx and about two to three Subway stations away from Yankee Stadium, did not get a chance to be in the 18-man game day lineup, but made sure he was at Red Bull Arena to feel the electricity of the special match.

“I was actually in the stands with some friends, because I wanted to feel that emotion,” Fernandez said. “I was near our supporters and when we scored that goal and that second, throughout the whole game, it was a different feeling for me. Because, I’m a part of the team now, I feel a bit more emotionally connected to the team and it was a big result for us and I really felt it in the stands, if not maybe more.”

Fernandez’s took in his first Derby at Yankee Stadium in July 2016, the 2-1 NYCFC response to the 7-nil Red Wedding, and was seated with NYCFC supporters. So, Sunday was a complete 180 for him, and he says he looks forward to the second meeting between the two on Aug. 24 in the Bronx.