Sixteen points separate Los Angeles Football Club and Toronto FC in MLS play, though a loss on Saturday night at BMO Field in Toronto would severely hamper either team’s postseason chances.
Toronto is in the more dire position, sitting six points behind sixth-place Montreal for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot, with the New England Revolution and D.C. United also in the mix between the two Canadian sides. Toronto FC (7-13-6, 27 points) has also had to deal with fixture congestion, as the team will be playing its third match in eight days, with a mid-week trip to Portland sandwiched between two home games.
The 2-0 loss to the Timbers on Wednesday marked yet another instance of Toronto FC unable to play its first-choice lineup due to health concerns. Owing to the cross-continental travel and compressed schedule, several Toronto regulars nursing injuries — Sebastian Giovinco, Victor Vazquez, Jonathan Osorio, Drew Moor, Gregory van der Wiel — didn’t even make the trip to Portland, though all are expected to be available against Los Angeles.
“It’s not been a season that has gone by design in any way, but we’re still very much in it and very much fighting,” Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley said. “The mentality now is to turn it around quickly for a big game against a good team on Saturday night.”
While Toronto is playing on just three days’ recovery time, LAFC (12-7-7, 43 points) last played on August 24, a 1-1 draw against Los Angeles Galaxy.
That match saw LAFC defender Danilo Silva leave the game after just 27 minutes due to a hamstring injury, and it isn’t clear if he’ll be ready for Saturday. This could leave Los Angeles FC thin at on the back line, as captain Laurent Ciman was transferred to Ligue 1 side Dijon FCO in something of a surprise move earlier this week.
“It’ll certainly be different (without Ciman). He’s been a big part of our success early in the year,” LAFC defender Walker Zimmerman said. “At the same time, we know we have some really quality replacements, guys who can step in and fill that role. It’s going to require everyone to step up a little bit — Danilo, myself, Dejan (Jakovic) — and really take responsibility at the center back position.”
In the tightly-packed Western Conference, Los Angeles FC could find itself in first place at weekend’s end with a win in Toronto, or potentially just two points ahead of the playoff line with a loss.
Saturday’s match is the first-ever meeting between LAFC and Toronto FC. It also marks the first time that Michael Bradley has ever played against his father, Los Angeles head coach Bob Bradley, in a competitive match.
—Field Level Media