Tue, 18 Jun 2019

Red Bulls look to strengthen Shield bid vs. Toronto FC

Sports Xchange
21 Sep 2018, 15:54 GMT+10

It is must-win time for two Eastern Conference rivals with different MLS playoff aspirations.

The New York Red Bulls are one of two teams to have already clinched a berth in the MLS Cup playoffs. Their goal is to capture a third Supporters' Shield title.

Toronto FC, the reigning Supporters' Shield holders and MLS Cup champions, are just trying to make it to the postseason.

Both need a win when they meet Saturday at Red Bull Arena.

The Red Bulls (17-7-5) are second in the Shield race to Atlanta United, who rallied for a dramatic victory at San Jose Wednesday night. They trail Atlanta by four points heading into the weekend's action.

Each time the Five Stripes win, the pressure is on the Red Bulls to equal the task.

"It's just black and white to me," Red Bulls coach Chris Armas said. "We have three points (on Saturday) we can take advantage of. I don't think it's added pressure. It's just clear. There's no gray area."

The Red Bulls, who are coming off a 3-3 draw at D.C. United last Sunday, host Atlanta next Sunday, but that game will be virtually meaningless if New York doesn't beat Toronto.

"We go into every game thinking we want to win, especially playing at Red Bull Arena," Red Bulls defender Tim Parker said. "I don't think there's added pressure, but we want to try to win the Shield so we're going to try and win out."

Toronto FC (8-14-6) is currently ninth in the Eastern Conference, nine points below the playoff line with six games remaining in the regular season. The Reds have painted themselves into a corner where every game going forward is virtually a "must win."

The playoffs for Greg Vanney's squad begin Saturday at Red Bull Arena.

"We're still at a point where we've got to more or less win out," Vanney said.

Toronto is coming off a wild 5-3 win over the LA Galaxy at home last Saturday, racing out to a three-goal lead that evaporated before the hour mark. Toronto then scored twice in the final 20 minutes.

That was followed by the midweek disappointment felt from a 3-1 home loss to Tigres UANL in the inaugural Campeones Cup, pitting the defending MLS Cup champions against the Liga MX winners.

Toronto won a contentious playoff series against the Red Bulls a year ago, further fueling the rivalry between the sides. The Red Bulls earned a measure of revenge in their first regular season meeting on July 1, with defender Kemar Lawrence scoring the lone goal in the fourth minute.

"We need a result so we're all excited. At the end of the day you get up to play games, but it's a big win to win, to keep our hopes alive," Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore said. "We still have an opportunity to turn things around, so we have to remain optimistic. ... Only three points will do at this point."

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