(Jozy Altidore photo courtesy John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY Sports)
Looking for the answers to re-establish their dominance at home, the New York Red Bulls have a potential six-point belter Saturday night when they host Toronto FC.
The Red Bulls (10-4-9) have lost four games at Red Bull Arena this season – matching the total from their previous two seasons combined when they claimed 76 of a possible 102 points (23-7-4). It is also the first time they have dropped four matches at home in a single season since Red Bull Arena opened in 2010.
New York, which is fifth in the Eastern Conference on 34 points, went into the All-Star break on a 3-2 loss to Columbus on July 27, continuing a frustrating pattern for the 2018 Supporters’ Shield winner as it dropped to 3-1-4 in its last eight games overall.
“The talking point is understand that there is a target on our back, especially at home,” midfielder Derrick Etienne told the club’s official website. “Teams understand how good we are home and that they want to take points from us. We have to be able to put the game on our terms constantly and that’s what we’re looking forward to rectifying this weekend.”
A key component of New York’s regression has been its slipshod defense. The Red Bulls have yielded 18 goals in those eight matches and 34 overall – already exceeding their total for all of last season (33). Some of that can be chalked up to Tyler Adams moving to RB Leipzig, but New York still has – pending the close of the European transfer window – 2018 MLS Defender of the Year Aaron Long. Keeper Luis Robles thinks one of the issues is complacency.
“We’re not playing with the same intensity, we’re not playing with the same commitment, we’re not playing with the same intelligence as we did last year,” he told Pro Soccer USA. “And maybe we’re not playing with the same sort of chip on our shoulder that we have to prove something. We have to really show so that people around the league take notice. We’ve become a little too complacent.”
This is a huge match for Toronto FC (9-5-9), which is in eighth place on 32 points but only four out of second. The Reds have won three of their last four games, heading into the break after a 2-1 victory over FC Cincinnati on July 27, as Jozy Altidore continued his goal-scoring run.
The U.S. international extended his goal-scoring streak to four matches, giving him nine in 13 for Toronto FC. Included in that run was a deft backheel flick that helped power Toronto to a 3-1 home victory over New York on July 17, and Altidore enters this contest with three goals in eight matches against his former team.
The Reds also added to their wing depth during the week, signing Nicolas Benezet from relegated Ligue 1 side Guingkamp in France. The 28-year-old was signed with Target Allocated Money and does not count as one of TFC’s three Designated Players.
“The goal is that he comes and he lights it up here. And that we keep him here and he helps our team moving forward,” coach Greg Vanney told The Canadian Press. “The more stable we can be going from one year to the next has proven for us to be more successful than going through lots of changes.”
All-Star Alejandro Pozuelo converted a penalty and Ashtone Morgan also scored for Toronto in last month’s win over the Red Bulls. Toronto, though, has just one win in 11 all-time visits to Red Bull Arena (1-2-8), a 2-0 victory March 6, 2016.