Toronto Out To Tame Red Bulls Saturday

Asif Hossain - TorontoFC.ca
Long Way To Go

Paul Mariner got his first win as Toronto FC head coach in Montreal at midweek. The bench boss will hope to guide his Reds to another victory, this time at home, Saturday night when New York Red Bulls visit BMO Field (Sportsnet Ontario & One at 7 p.m. ET).

Toronto has scored eight goals in its last three matches. Unable to keep two-goal leads against Houston and New England, the Reds collected five points from nine in these games instead of the maximum. The club put the earlier disappointments behind them by thrashing Montreal 3-0 on Wednesday. Asked if he thinks that Toronto is doing better under his watch after a 1-9 start to the season, Mariner said "I like to think so, it's not really for me to say." The coach was glad to see the Reds beat a rival at their own park though he remains far from satisfied. "We'll never turn the corner fully for me until we're really flying ... we want to do well, we want to take this club to the heights."

Saturday's opponent New York currently sits tied atop the Eastern Conference. Mariner said he let his players know that Toronto's goal is to climb that summit.

In The Zone

Toronto's improvements have coincided with a noticeable uptick in quality from homegrown defender and Canada international Ashtone Morgan. The Torontonian set up two goals in his last BMO Field outing and made an intelligent run and pass that provided the third strike in Montreal. 

"I think I'm in a zone right now, it's been working for the team and for myself," Morgan told reporters after training on Friday. He singled out Mariner as a motivating factor, saying the coach's passionate outbursts during games has been contagious for the squad. Recently Mariner asked Morgan to take on a greater leadership role in the backline. The clean sheet in Montreal and his exceptional service to strikers gives the 21-year old confidence to do just that. "I'm here to help," the fullback declared.

Koef Climbing The Charts

The main beneficiary of Morgan's crosses has been striker Danny Koevermans. He has scored in three straight games for Toronto and six times in as many matches. His seven league goals now puts him in a four-way tie for sixth in the league, though his goals per 90 minutes average (0.80) - he missed a month with a groin injury - shows a greater value in the opposition third. 

Not concerned with statistics or personal exploits, Koevermans maintained that his goals are only important because they help the team. He wants Toronto to keep picking up points though admits it won't be easy against the Red Bulls. "We have nothing to lose," the Dutchman said of facing one of the top teams in the East. "They have 30-points, they've done a great job this season ... we (have) lots of respect for New York."

Finishing The Game

Goalkeeper Milos Kocic had a front row seat to a pair of letdowns when Houston and New England roared back to level against Toronto in the final moments of back-to-back games. He may have been the most grateful player on the pitch when the Reds finished off Montreal instead of hanging back to protect the lead.

"We have quality and I know we can do good things in this league," Kocic responded in stating the difference witnessed in the previous match. "The guys realized how much it hurts to give away two goals." Kocic will be wary of the threat possessed by New York's top marksmen Kenny Cooper and the legendary Thierry Henry, who scored against Toronto in this fixture last year, stealing a point just two minutes from time in a 1-1 draw.

The Opposition

Opposition Update

New York beat writer Franco Panizo reported on the league website Friday afternoon that a calf strain will keep Rafael Marquez out of the match Saturday. Former MLS Bext XI defender Wilman Conde, will travel and is eligible while nursing a groin injury that will make him a late decision.

The Officials

Ricardo Salazar is set to referee the Toronto-New York affair on Saturday night. Salazar will be helped by assistants Craig Lowry and Claudio Badea. 

According to MLSsoccer.com the veteran Salazar has averaged 27.1 fouls and 3.5 yellow cards over 154 league games. He has shown 44 players their marching orders and called 57 penalties in that time. The fourth official in the crew is Tyler Ploeger.