Toronto FC learns rest of rejigged MLS schedule, with a busy October ahead

Toronto FC learns rest of rejigged MLS schedule, with a busy October ahead

Toronto FC learned Tuesday what lies ahead in the rest of the pandemic-rejigged MLS regular season.

Seven matches in October and two in November. Six “home” games in East Hartford, Conn. A steady diet of Eastern Conference opponents.

On the plus side, coach Greg Vanney gave a thumbs-up to the facilities in their Hartford home away from home, talking up the team’s hotel and food as well as Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field, where TFC will play home games due to border restrictions limiting U.S. teams from coming north.

“The setup’s been great … No complaints,” Vanney said Tuesday. “We’re just obviously away from family and all that, which we have to manage and work through while we’re on the road.”

As Toronto (6-2-4) prepared for its third meeting with New York City FC this year —Wednesday at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J. — the league released the last chunk of the regular-season schedule.

Toronto will play a 23-game season campaign, rather than the normal 34. TFC will finish out the regular season at the New York Red Bulls on Decision Day, Nov. 8.

Unless something drastic changes with COVID-19, TFC will finish the regular season having played just four of those 23 games at BMO Field.

Toronto faces a difficult opponent in NYCFC (5-5-2) on Wednesday.

The New Yorkers are unbeaten in six games (4-0-2) — a stretch that has seen them concede just two goals. NYCFC ranks second in the league on defence, yielding 0.75 goals a game, which has helped cover up the fact it is tied for 22nd on offence in averaging 0.83 goals a game.

In contrast, Toronto is tied for ninth on offence (1.67 goals a game) and seventh on defence (1.17).

“They’re a good team. They have quality players,” Vanney said. “They have good structure that they play from. I think defensively they’ve become a little more aggressive from the front than they were at the beginning of the season.”

Toronto defeated NYCFC 1-0, on an 81st-minute goal by rookie Ifunanyachi Achara, when the two teams met at BMO Field on March 7 prior to the pandemic shutdown. The New Yorkers had their revenge at the MLS is Back Tournament in Florida, dispatching Toronto 3-1 in the round of 16 on July 26 (a game that did not count in the regular-season standings).

“They wanted the game more than we wanted the game … We got outcompeted in too many situations for too long throughout the game,” said Vanney. “That’s something that has to change.”

Toronto ended NYCFC’s playoff hopes last year with a 2-1 win in the Eastern Conference semifinal, thanks to a late penalty by Alejandro Pozuelo. The teams also met at the same stage of the playoffs in 2016 with Toronto winning the two-game tie 7-0 on aggregate thanks to a 5-0 shellacking at Yankee Stadium.

After shooting itself in the foot with two gifted goals in a 2-2 tie with D.C. United last time out, Toronto is looking to tighten up its game against NYCFC.

“Even though they’re not scoring a lot of goals, they’ve got good players,” said Vanney. ”We’ve got to manage those players. We’ve got to manage their movements and protect our goal and not give away silly things to a very good team.

“We’ve got to be more reliable in making plays. Making it more difficult for teams to work to score goals.”

The respect goes both ways.

“A tough game, a good team,” said Ronny Delia, NYCFC’s Norwegian coach. “Everybody knows what Toronto is. It’s going to be big test for us.”

After Wednesday, Toronto will play Columbus, Philadelphia, the Red Bulls, Atlanta, NYCFC and Miami in Hartford with away games at New England, FC Cincinnati, Philadelphia and the Red Bulls.

“Life in a hotel … The setup is nice, the hotel is nice. It’s just a longer road trip,” said goalkeeper Quentin Westberg, like Vanney a father of four.

Vanney says the hope is Toronto may be able to return for a couple of days — under quarantine — if the schedule permits. The club has a five-day window between the Sept. 27 game against Columbus and the Oct. 3 date against Philadelphia, both in Hartford.

“It would be a way of ‘Catch you breath, say hello and then out you go again,’” Vanney said.

TORONTO FC (6-2-4) vs. NEW YORK CITY FC (5-5-2)

Wednesday 7 p.m. ET at Red Bull Arena, Harrison, N.J.

FORM: Toronto has picked up just four of the last 12 points available, losing to Vancouver, splitting a pair of games with Montreal, and tying D.C. United. NYCFC is unbeaten in six (4-0-2).

INJURY REPORT: Both teams are missing key players with Toronto captain Michael Bradley and NYCFC playmaker Maxi Moralez rehabbing knee injuries. Toronto striker Jozy Altidore has been dealing with foot discomfort.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 22, 2020.


Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta Union of Provincial Employees were back on the job Tuesday after a province-wide wildcat strike on Monday. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer hospital workers back on the job

Red Deer hospital was one of 45 sites with picket lines

Alice Kolisnyk, deputy director of the Red Deer Food Bank, says the agency expects an increase in demand as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Every new subscription to the Red Deer Advocate includes a $50 donation to the food bank. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Support the food bank with a subscription to the Red Deer Advocate

The community’s most vulnerable members are always in need of a hand,… Continue reading

(Emily Jaycox/Bashaw Star)
Wreath laying ceremony held in Manfred, Alta.

Ceremony marks 64th anniversary of Hungarian revolution, honours settlers

The Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre could be affected by cuts to Alberta Health Services announced by the government Tuesday. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
David Marsden: Yes, we know how to do laundry

Union leaders would have us believe there’s something special about their members:… Continue reading

FILE - In this Jan. 15, 2019, file photo, members of South Korean K-pop group TWICE pose for photos on the red carpet at the Seoul Music Awards at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, South Korea. TWICE, a popular K-pop group known for its catchy lyrics and colorful aesthetics, released its second full album, a collection that invites listeners into the band’s more daring side. “Eyes Wide Open,” released Monday, Oct. 26, 2020, has 13 songs, including the lead single “I Can’t Stop Me.” (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man, File)
K-pop band TWICE reveals its daring side on new album

Half a decade of experience under their belt

In this video grab issued Sunday, Aug. 30, 2020, by MTV, The Weeknd performs “Blinding Lights” during the MTV Video Music Awards. (MTV via AP)
Los Angeles Rams cornerback Troy Hill (22) tips a pass in the end zone intended for Chicago Bears wide receiver Darnell Mooney (11) during the second half of an NFL football game Monday, Oct. 26, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif. The ball was caught by Rams safety Taylor Rapp, behind, for a touchback. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis )
Rams dominate matchup of tough defences, beat Bears 24-10

Rams dominate matchup of tough defences, beat Bears 24-10

Most Read