If this is Thierry Henry’s last year in Major League Soccer he’s going out in style.
The Arsenal legend and Bradley Wright-Phillips stand in the way of Toronto FC’s first playoff berth in franchise history.
TFC have three hurdles to jump to get into the MLS Cup playoffs. Henry, Wright-Phillips and the New York Red Bulls represent the first test.
The pair have combined for 34 goals this year. Wright-Phillips is three goals away from tying the MLS record for goals in a season while Henry has served as a dual threat, registering 13 assists to go along with 10 goals.
If the Reds can stop them, they stop the Red Bulls.
New York is one of the teams the Reds are chasing. Mike Petke’s squad did what Toronto could not, beating Houston last week to give the Red Bulls a four point lead on sixth place. That’s where TFC currently sits, with the Columbus Crew squeezed in between them.
New York will be without forward Peguy Luyindula for the match. The 35-year-old was suspended one game for his challenge on Houston’s Luis Garrido last week. The tackle was deemed a serious foul which endangered the safety of an opponent by MLS. Tim Cahill will also miss out due to suspension.
It could have been much worse for Petke if Henry was retroactively punished for apparently kicking Dynamo defender David Horst in the head intentionally. Henry escaped without punishment.
TFC defeated the Red Bulls 2-0 in May in their first meeting this season. Goals from Jermain Defoe and Luke Moore powered the Reds to their fourth win. The last time the teams faced off at Red Bull Arena each side came away with a point after a 2-2 draw in June.
TFC's midweek hiccup means their margin for error is gone. The return of Gilberto, who was held out for the second straight game on Wednesday due to a hamstring injury, should help TFC convert their scoring chances into goals. That’s been their problem the past two games. The good thing is they’re creating multiple excellent opprtunties. The time has come to cash those in.
Milestone for Morrow
Saturday night's fixture will serve as a milestone for TFC left back Justin Morrow. The 27-year-old is expected to start, collecting his 100th regular season cap in MLS in the process. Morrow has arguably been the club's most consistent player this season, serving as the linchpin for a backline that suffered a number of injuries throughout the year.
Morrow represented the United States internationally three times and played once, starting in a draw against Canada in 2013. His form this season warrants another chance to represent the Red, White and Blue.
And then there was one. Gilberto is the only player on the injury report for Saturday’s fixture. The Brazilian striker is listed as questionable due to a problem in his right hamstring, but Greg Vanney seems confident he’ll be able to play against the Red Bulls.
Gilberto has missed five games this season.