The beginning of the home stretch starts on Saturday night in Harrison, NJ.
Toronto FC is in a solid position, sitting in a playoff spot with a plethora of home games remaining.
There has, however, been recent cause for concern. The Reds continue to leak goals, especially on the road. TFC has conceded 14 goals in their last four games. That will have to change going forward. Greg Vanney’s side has only four road games left, making Saturday’s tilt (7:00 PM, TSN 2) at Red Bull Arena a big one.
The Red Bulls are coming into the match on a high after sweeping New York City FC in three games, the last of which a 2-0 drubbing at home last Sunday.
If TFC wants to secure a bye in the first round of the playoffs a win against the Red Bulls, who they trail by five points for second place, would go a long way.
Here are three keys to the match.
A new CB pairing?
Damien Perquis (quadriceps) is questionable for the match leaving Ahmed Kantari, Eriq Zavaleta and Nick Hagglund as options for Vanney at centre-back.
Kantari has played every minute of three games since joining the club in July while Hagglund is returning from an appendectomy. At some point you would have to imagine Kantari will get a breather. That could come on Saturday night.
There is a chance Josh Williams, who made his first trip with the Reds on Friday, could also be an option for Toronto.
Vanney has made it known he will not accept more defensive errors from his backline. Don’t be surprised if TFC’s manager shakes things up at the back after stressing accountability the past week.
Jozy Altidore expects more from himself.
Though he’s managed seven goals in 14 games, a good clip for a player that’s dealt with a hamstring injury this season, Altidore has found consistency hard to come by.
"We need to get him going,” Vanney said earlier this week. “And my hope is that this weekend, going to his former club, in a big match against a rival in our conference, is that he'll be highly motivated and we can support him and get him those opportunities.”
The return of Benoit Cheyrou to the lineup will help create those opportunities. Not since the beginning of the season have the Reds been at full power in the midfield. Their work, in terms of countering the Red Bulls aggressive pressing game, will decide how many chances Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco will get.
No longer Thierry’s team
Thierry Henry is no longer the featured attraction for the Red Bulls, and that’s a good thing.
Jesse Marsch is getting contributions from a number of players and Bradley Wright-Phillips continues to fill the net, much like he did last season.
Mike Grella, Sacha Kljesta and Dax McCarty have been superb while Matt Miazga is emerging as a top flight defender in this league.
Red Bulls fans greeted the dismissal of Mike Petke this offseason with disdain. Now, the Red Bulls sit in second place and are playing some of the best football in the league.