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New York returns for a midweek test in Toronto

The Red Bulls face a quick turnaround, questions with squad rotation and a prolific frontline in Toronto.

MLS: New York Red Bulls at Toronto FC
Red Bulls defender Tim Parker jostles for a loose ball during New York’s last trip to Toronto, in July of last year.
Gerry Angus-USA TODAY Sports

New York is Red. A big three points against crosstown rivals NYCFC puts the Red Bulls just five points from first in the east. It may not have been the most convincing win, but it was a huge boost in the standings.

Much like NYCFC entering Sunday, the Red Bulls now have a quick turnaround for Toronto FC on Wednesday – a club that has had quite the interesting season thus far.

After crashing out of CONCACAF Champions League, Toronto lit up MLS. The Reds won five of their first eight matches and looked to be near unstoppable. The 2-0 win in Orlando on May 4, though, was a turning point.

Toronto proceeded to lose five of its next eight, drawing the other three. The team looked a shell of its former self and could not scrape together any sort of momentum. Toronto only recently ended that drought, beating Atlanta 3-2 at home on June 26. They also beat the Impact in Montreal on Saturday, so both teams enter Wednesday off a win and short rest.

Alejandro Pozuelo has been the big performer for Toronto this season. Arriving from Genk in Belgium, the Spaniard has been phenomenal ever since signing his Designated Player contract.

He leads the team with eight goals and eight assists on the season, constantly creating changes and linking up play in the final third.

Pozuelo has scored in big matches for his team. His brace and man of the match performance against Atlanta was something special, while his stellar performances in March and April saw him score four goals and grab four assists in just four matches.

The Red Bulls did a fantastic job shutting down Maxi Moralez in Sunday’s victory, and have what it takes to shut down a crafty playmaker. Tim Parker could also return to the lineup, putting the backline at full strength for the first time since early May.

In addition, Bradley Wright-Phillips could finally see his first start in nearly three months, as he played just 14 minutes against NYCFC. Kaku will also likely return to the starting 11, shifting Marc Rzatkowski to his normal position next to Sean Davis in midfield.

And with another match looming on Sunday, the Red Bulls could see either a few more changes to the starting lineup or early subs by Chris Armas to keep players fresh. With the end of the season sneaking up fast, and the team nearly at full fitness, the Red Bulls need to be careful with how they manage squad rotation.

Resting someone as talented and important as Royer is hard after Sunday’s brace, but the Red Bulls have plenty of talent up front to justify reduced minutes. On top of that, Toronto has one of the worst defensive records in the east; their aging defense does not match up well against pacey players.

With the next two matches away from home, the Red Bulls need to be content with a draw in at least one of the matches. Toronto and Orlando are both beatable teams, though, so do not expect Armas to sit back in either match if the game is there to be taken.

The last loss by the Red Bulls in Toronto came in 2017, and the last two wins in Toronto were both 1-0 score lines. It could be another defensive battle for Armas and his men, and the team has proved multiple times this season it is capable of grinding out a result.