Despite the 21-point gap between New York City FC and Toronto FC in the standings, Sunday’s match at BMO Field has the feel of a heavyweight battle within the Eastern Conference.
Toronto is on a six-match unbeaten streak in all competitions, including an impressive road draw against league leaders Atlanta United last week.
Between this improved form and New York City’s middling 3-5-3 record on the road, NYCFC head coach Domenec Torrent expects “a tough, tough game” on Sunday.
“Toronto for now is the champions of MLS,” Torrent said. “We respect this team a lot, because in the last three games they are getting better....against Atlanta, they could’ve won the game. They have quality.”
Toronto FC (6-11-5, 23 points) has finally been able to field something close to its first-choice lineup in recent weeks, following a plethora of injuries in the season’s opening months. Drew Moor could be the latest key name to return, as the defender is back in regular training after missing almost four months due to a quad tear.
“[Moor has] been in full sessions this week, so hopefully he’ll be in contention for some minutes,” Toronto head coach Greg Vanney said. “I’m not quite sure how long just yet, but we’ll see. Hopefully he gets back into the mix this week.”
Toronto has a particular need for back line help on Sunday. Chris Mavinga is on suspension after receiving a red card last weekend, while Vanney said Brazilian defender Auro is “probably unlikely” to play due to a hamstring injury.
New York City FC (13-5-5, 44 points) looks to take advantage of this lack of defensive depth with the probable return of David Villa. The Spanish forward has missed seven matches due to a knee injury and a league-mandated one-game suspension for missing the MLS All-Star Game.
Villa’s last appearance came in the first meeting of the season between New York City and Toronto FC, with NYCFC recording a 2-1 victory on June 24 at Yankee Stadium.
Between Villa’s likely return and Jo Inge Berget and Isi Tajouri-Shradi both seemingly back at full strength after recent injuries, NYCFC is getting some major reinforcements for the season’s final months. Even with a shorthanded lineup, however, NYCFC has still posted a 4-2-1 record over its last seven games.
NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson didn’t play in the match against Vancouver due to a shoulder injury, and is questionable for Sunday.
—Field Level Media