Toronto FC aims to claim Supporters' Shield vs. Red Bulls
Despite suffering consecutive losses for the first time this season, Toronto FC can wrap the Supporters' Shield and the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoff bracket on Saturday with a home win against the struggling New York Red Bulls.
Toronto has enjoyed the full week to regroup from losses to New England and Montreal, the two teams chasing the Red Bulls for the conference's sixth and final playoff spot.
Even so, coach Greg Vanney's team enters the weekend with a seven-point lead on New York City FC, with both teams having three games remaining on the schedule.
The match will be the first time in a while that Toronto (18-8-5, 62 points) has had something definitive for which to play. The Reds have been in first since a July 19 draw with NYCFC, and their lead only grew more comfortable during an 11-match unbeaten run that extended into September.
"It's unfortunately part of the season where you can go through a little stretch where you give up some strange goals," captain Michael Bradley told mlssoccer.com after Saturday's 2-1 loss to the Revolution. "We'll find the right way to keep going and know, just as we said when things were going along in a good way, we have a good team. Nothing in that regard has changed.
Meanwhile, the sliding Red Bulls (12-11-7, 43 points) could take a big step toward solidifying a playoff place and gaining some much-needed confidence with a win of their own.
New York prevented themselves from prosperity on Wednesday, seeing its late lead evaporate on Fidel Escobar's own goal in second-half stoppage time of a 3-3 draw with D.C. United.
That took the Red Bulls' winless run to seven matches, including five ties, and wasted the first two professional goals from teenager Tyler Adams.
"One (goal) was for the lead, one was for the tie so it was good. A good feeling," Adams told mlssoccer.com after the game. "But ultimately, the three points is the most important thing, and we didn't come away with those today."
However, with Montreal and New England also suffering losses Wednesday, New York actually increased its lead for the sixth and final East playoff spot to four points. Two more victories in their last four games would see the Red Bulls clinch a postseason berth for an eighth consecutive season.
Updated September 29, 2017