MLS Preview: Toronto Travel to New England

It’s been a season of mixed emotions for Toronto FC. The summer signings of Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco gave Toronto fans hope that their team would climb out of their usual mediocre league finish and into the upper echelon of title contenders. However, the start to the season has been anything but a dream for the team north of the border as they have lost five of their first eight games, including a horrendous four game losing streak after the first match of the season. For the Revolution, the path back to the MLS Cup Final looks a little more attainable. The Revs currently sit second in the Eastern Conference, only three points behind leaders DC United. Jay Heaps’ side hasn’t lost a game since March 15th, and it will take a heroic effort from visiting Toronto to end that streak.

Out of their first ten games of the season, New England’s defense has been able to keep four clean sheets. You can’t maintain a great defensive record without a standout goalkeeper and the Revs have exactly that in Bobby Shuttleworth. The 28-year-old keeper has been one of the most consistent performers on the team and his impressive performances against teams like the Colorado Rapids and New York Red Bulls have helped to propel the Revs to their impressive league position. In front of the keeper, the defensive pairing of Jermaine Jones and Andrew Farrell has helped to contain the opposition attack and they will need another solid effort to squelch one of the hottest attacking tandems in the league when Altidore and Giovinco come to town.

New England has perhaps one of the most underrated attacking forces in the league. Their roster contains three US National Team strikers with 40 CAPs between them. Juan Agudelo, Teal Bunbury and Charlie Davies have combined for eight goals this season and are a main reason why the club has scored the second most goals in their conference. In their last four games, at least one person out of that trio has found the back of the net for the Revolution and no team has been able to hold the Revs to less than two goals a game in that span. Going up against a Toronto side that has allowed 13 goals in their first eight games of the season (1.625 goals/game), the Revolution strikers will be salivating at the chance to add to their growing goal tallies.

On the other end, Italian striker Sebastian Giovinco has been Toronto’s MVP as of late. Highlight reel goals against FC Dallas and the Philadelphia Union have made the former Juventus man an instant fan favorite at BMO field. The quick striker provides a nice contrast to the physical play of Jozy Altidore who currently leads the team with five goals. The national team forward has quickly adjusted to the MLS after a nightmare season at Sunderland and has scored three goals in his last three games and as his chemistry with Giovinco starts to build, we may be looking at one of the most lethal forward tandems in MLS history.

The main issue for Toronto this season has been on the defensive side of the ball. Greg Vanney’s side has only managed to keep two clean sheets this season and other than those two matches, Toronto has only been able to keep their opponents to less than two goals once. An injury to starting goalkeeper Joe Bendik has given the number one spot to 30-year-old Chris Konokpa who before this season had yet to make a league appearance for the club since they signed him in 2013. Despite his inexperience, Konokpa’s performance against Houston last week was very impressive despite the 2-1 defeat. His saves helped keep Toronto in the match, and if Bendik is unable to play for a third straight game, Konokpa will be the man in the spotlight for Toronto when they travel to Gillette Stadium.

At home, the Revs have yet to lose a match this season and I don’t think Saturday will be their first. The lack of a strong defensive unit for Toronto paired with the impressive attacking play of the Revolution sets the stage for a dominant victory for the hosts. When the final whistle blows on Saturday, I think the final score will read 3-0 in favor of New England.

 

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About the author: Collin Carpio

 

I am currently a senior at the University of Missouri in the Journalism School. I have been an avid follower of Manchester United since 2006 and of course I support the Stars and Stripes. Due to my St. Louis high school allegiances, I am a big supporter of Brad Davis and Sporting KC in MLS.


 

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