Revolution-Toronto FC Preview
A "gentlemen's agreement" would see both Toronto FC and the New England Revolution through to the knockout round of the MLS Is Back tournament in their Group C finale showdown Tuesday. But a winner would claim group honors in this matchup in Orlando.
Both the Reds and Revs are on four points and in good shape to progress to the round of 16 regardless of the outcome. But a draw would guarantee passage since the absolute worst-case scenario would see these teams and D.C. United all on five points and the third-place team being one of the four best third-place finishers.
Toronto FC (2-0-2) has the inside track on the top spot in the group by virtue of goals scored, aided by its wild 4-3 victory over Montreal on Thursday night in a Canadian Classique played in the U.S. Ayo Akinola continued his blistering form in Orlando, recording a hat trick, and has accounted for five of the six goals TFC have scored in the two matches.
"I'm pretty happy to get the hat trick," said Akinola to the team's official website. "But I know it's not over. We've still got one more game left (before the knockout stages). This game is in the past, I'm already thinking about the next one."
"For us it's always a central striker who plays between the centre-backs, or off of the one centre-back tonight because they played in a back three - who uses his power and his speed and his aggressiveness in front of goal," TFC coach Greg Vanney added about Akinola. "Because he has soft feet, he can hold things up, but he's just so powerful and fast."
In the event the Revolution (1-1-2) somehow do not qualify for the knockout round, they will be able to look back at Saturday night's 1-1 draw versus D.C. as the reason.
Antonio Milnar Delama made a woefully soft back pass intended for keeper Matt Turner, which allowed United striker Federico Higuain to streak in, collect the ball, round Turner, and slot into an empty net for a 72nd-minute equalizer that left New England with one point instead of three.
"We had a 1-0 lead. We were controlling the game," coach Bruce Arena bluntly told the Revs' official website. "We created some other chances; our opponent didn't really create any chances on the night. Their goal was - we use an expression in the sport - it was a gift.
"You've got to give them some credit. They stepped up and pressured us and we gave the ball away, but you still have to finish the play. We gave the game away."
Adam Buksa's goal accounted for New England's offense, but Arena's team has been plagued by a lack of sharpness in the final third. The Revolution have unloaded 37 shots in the two games in Orlando but have just two goals to show for their efforts, which is a concern to Arena.
"We have a tendency of not finishing well," the former U.S. national coach said. "That's been a characteristic of our team in the two games here in Orlando, and I'd probably say that was a bit of the case in our first two games of the regular season against Montreal and Chicago, so we need to do better there."
Arena was only around for the team's 1-1 draw between the sides last year, with Toronto FC winning the other match 3-2 in March. The teams have split the last five meetings (2-2-1) while showing offensive flair, combining for 20 goals in those games.
Updated July 19, 2020