The New York Red Bulls and Toronto FC have plenty to play for Saturday in Harrison, N.J., for much different reasons.
The Red Bulls (17-7-5, 56 points) have already clinched an Eastern Conference playoff berth, but they are trying to keep pace with first-place Atlanta United FC in the race for the Supporters’ Shield that goes to the team with the most regular-season points. Atlanta holds a four-point edge.
Defending MLS Cup champion Toronto FC (8-14-6, 30 points) has got work to do just to make the playoffs. With six games remaining, Toronto is in the ninth place in the East, nine points behind the Montreal Impact for the sixth and final playoff berth.
“We have to almost win every game,” Toronto forward Jozy Altidore said. “Only three points will do.”
Toronto will be coming off a short week after losing 3-1 to Mexican champion Tigres UANL on Wednesday in the inaugural Campeones Cup.
“The guys are frustrated because they wanted to win the game, but at the same time they understand the importance of what’s in front of them,” Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney said after Wednesday’s contest. “We knew coming into this week our priorities, but we decided that if we’re going to play this game that we need to play this game the right way. But we also understood that we have a very important match on Saturday that is probably going to go a long way toward determining what our future is in the league.”
Toronto’s Sebastian Giovinco left the Wednesday match before halftime with calf cramps and is listed as questionable for Saturday. Giovinco leads Toronto with 11 goals this season and is tied with the Red Bulls’ Alejandro Romero Gamarra for second in the league with 14 assists.
The Red Bulls are coming off a 3-3 tie on Sunday against host D.C. United. New York fell behind three times, with Bradley Wright-Phillips tying the score each time in netting a hat trick. Wright-Phillips is second in the league with 19 goals.
“I feel a little bit disappointed,” Wright-Phillips said after the Red Bulls allowed three goals for the second consecutive match. “I don’t feel we really looked like ourselves defensively. It is obviously good to score, but we were always coming back, it was always we had to score to get back into the game. We are fighting too hard to get these wins the last two games, and I don’t really like the feeling of that.”
This will be the second meeting between the teams this season. The Red Bulls won 1-0 on July 1 in Toronto as Kemar Lawrence scored the lone goal in the fourth minute and goalkeeper Luis Robles stopped a penalty shot by Giovinco.
The Red Bulls have a 14-8-7 edge in the all-time series, including 10-2-2 at home.
—Field Level Media