Toronto FC

Reds face FC Dallas at home to start the busy slate of May


Saturday kicks off a busy month for Toronto FC.

The side hosts FC Dallas on Saturday, heads to Quebec on Wednesday for the first leg of their Canadian Championship quarterfinal against CS Saint-Laurent, then hosts NYCFC at BMO Field next weekend.

Toronto’s match against Dallas, as well as all the other MLS matches this weekend, can be watched for free on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.

A quick midweek trip to Nashville FC follows, then CF Montreal back in Toronto on Saturday before the second leg against Saint-Laurent at home on Tuesday.

If that wasn’t enough TFC then faces FC Cincinnati in Toronto the following Saturday, before closing out the stretch with two away matches: at the Philadelphia Union on May 29 and against D.C. United on June 1.

All told the club will play nine matches in 29 days. That it begins with a pair of home fixtures in the league is a bonus.

On the back of two wins – over the New England Revolution and Orlando City SC – Toronto achieved the aim they set for themselves through the opening ten matches.

Phase Three is over, bring on Phase Four: it only gets harder, less predictable, from here.

“These are big games, but in MLS you can't guarantee anything,” said John Herdman on Friday from BMO Field. “The form guide just doesn't seem to run true.”

“I was looking at Seattle, watching that game against Philadelphia the other night, and to think they’d be 3-0 up at Philly, it just blows your mind,” he continued, referencing the Sounders 3-2 win over the Union on Tuesday. “That's what you'll see with Dallas.”

“We’ve seen what [Sporting] KC did when they came here,” Herdman reminded. “We were a little bit loose, gave them big opportunities and they took them. [Dallas] will be exactly the same. We have to be super-disciplined and not take anything for granted. I can’t look at a form guide that you’ve beat Orlando in Orlando and think that anything is going to happen here. You’ve just got to grind it out and be professional.”

TFC’s opponent in the Canadian Championship is proof that little can be relied on in professional football.

Set to play the winner of a Preliminary Round tie between Canadian Premier League side HFX Wanderers FC and League1 Quebec champions Saint-Laurent, many would have had the Halifax-based professional side pencilled in.

Fate had other plans as the Quebecois semi-pros took the lead in the second half. HFX needed a controversial equalizer to force a shootout, but lost 5-3 on penalties, sending ripples throughout the Canadian soccer ecosystem.

“It’s exciting,” said Herdman of the prospect of facing another League1 side. “That's what cup games are about – you just don’t want to be on the other side of that situation.”

“They're an exciting team. I enjoyed watching them last night. A lot of individual talent,” he listed. “If we don't get the mentality right in a game like that, you could go there and be in a lot of trouble.”

Herdman and his side have targets in each and every game they play. Achieving ‘firsts’ is a big part of that, but away from home in a two-legged tie the aim will be simple.

“The main thing is to get out of there with an away goal,” he said.

“When you're at home, on your field, with your fans, on your blades of grass, you can start looking for ‘firsts’ of things, but away from home just get the result and get a goal on your goal-difference.”

That drama is for next week, before then a big contest against a resurgent FC Dallas side awaits.

Dallas opened the 2024 season with a win, but then lost four straight. A pair of draws and another loss extended that winless run to seven matches before a 2-0 win over 10-man Houston Dynamo last Saturday.

“They got a win this weekend, like us they’ve had a pretty rough injury list, but they'll have [Jesús] Ferreira back this week and when Ferreira and [Paul] Arriola play together, that's a real good combination,” Herdman cautioned. “They've had many years in the US team and at Dallas. We know that when them two are on the pitch, this is a very dangerous team.”

Ferreira led the side with 12 goals and six assists in 2023, but has been limited to just 200-odd minutes across four appearances this year. He was a substitute last weekend against Houston, his first action since the middle of March.

That was just as big off-season addition, Petar Musa, was getting his first taste of MLS.

The Croatian striker, formerly of Portuguese side Benfica, leads the way for Dallas this season with three goals. Bernard Kamungo – and his wonderful story – tops the assist table with two.

Throw in a former Red and Herdman knows his side are in for a challenge against a familiar counterpart.

“I was interested in Nico Estévez’s style of play when he came in,” explained the TFC coach – Estevez was US Men’s National Team Coach Gregg Berhalter’s assistant in Columbus and then with the national team before moving to Dallas ahead of the 2022 season. “It was very similar to what I'd seen at the US National Team – that 4-3-3 and variations of that – but this season he shifted to a back-five structure.”

“And he's gone to places like St. Louis [City SC], which is a tough place to go on and get results, keeping that scoreless,” Herdman continued. “What I've seen is they're a very organized team and if you give Liam Fraser the time and space, he'll find those balls behind your back-line and they haven't had Arriola and Ferreira on the pitch together starting this season.”

“I don't think anyone's really seen the best of this team,” he closed. “And with a week’s preparation, I'm sure we're in for a tough match.”