TORONTO – Write off Toronto FC at your peril.
That’s the message from TFC goalkeeper Alex Bono ahead of Sunday’s home game against New York City FC, a match that could have major implications on the Reds’ playoff hopes.
“The fact that teams seem to have forgotten the form that we can have as a side is ridiculous to me. We can definitely use that to our advantage going forward,” Bono stated. “Any team that’s looking down on us and thinks that we don’t quite have it or we’re not as good as we were last year, screw that, because we are.
“We have the same level of ability, maybe even higher. … It’s taken us this long to find our form, and now that we’ve found it, it’s time to go out and show teams that we’e here to play during the second half of the season and into the playoffs.”
Toronto (6-11-5) is on the outside looking in when it comes to the post-season picture at the moment. The Reds currently sit ninth in the Eastern Conference with 23 points, six points and three spots behind the New England Revolution who hold down the sixth and final playoff berth in the East.
TFC has undergone a bit of a renaissance of late, going unbeaten in its last six matches in all competitions. But New York (13-5-5) is no soft touch, as it sits third in the East and is in the mix for the Supporters’ Shield, the trophy given to the team that finishes the MLS regular season in first place.
If Toronto is going to make up ground in the playoff race, it has to do it now, with only 12 games remaining in the season.
“No one in this locker room thinks it’s over,” defender Justin Morrow said. “We all know that once we get on a roll that we have good a chance as any to win the MLS Cup.”
A familiar face could return for TFC on Sunday.
Vanney confirmed Drew Moor has returned to full training with the team, and that the veteran defender could see action in against New York City FC.
Moor, a 34-year-old native of Dallas, has been sidelined since April when he suffered a quad tear. He was on the road to recovery and close to coming back last month, but then had a setback with a calf injury that stunted his progress.
“He’s getting his way back. He’s been in full [practice] sessions this week, so hopefully he’ll be in contention for some minutes [against NYCFC]. I’m not quite sure how long just yet, but we’ll see. Hopefully he gets back into the mix this week,” Vanney said.
TFC defender Chris Mavinga is suspended for Sunday’s match after earning a red card in last week’s 2-2 road draw against Atlanta United FC.
Mavinga was issued the red card – which carries with it an automatic one-game suspension – for shoving Atlanta’s Leandro González Pírez in the face as the referee tried to separate the two players.
Vanney also confirmed that Mavinga has been hit with a one-match ban from the league’s disciplinary committee for his part in an end-of-game fracas. That means he’ll also be unavailable for next week’s road contest versus the San Jose Earthquakes.
AURO JR. DOUBTFUL
Vanney revealed that Auro Jr. is doubtful for Sunday’s game after he suffered a hamstring injury during the second half of Wednesday’s Canadian Championship final first leg match against the Vancouver Whitecaps, a match that ended 2-2.
The Brazilian fullback was expected to undergo tests on Friday to determine the extent of the issue, but it’s unlikely he’ll play on Sunday.
Auro had only returned from a lengthy injury layoff on Aug. 4 in an MLS road contest against Atlanta United FC. The Vancouver contest was his second game back. He left the match in the 64th minute, but not before assisting on Sebastian Giovinco’s opening goal for TFC.
DAVID VILLA COULD RETURN FOR NYCFC
Spanish forward David Villa could return to action on Sunday for NYCFC after missing the club’s previous seven games due to a knee injury and suspension.
Villa’s last appearance came in the first meeting of the season between NYCFC and TFC, with New York earning a 2-1 victory on June 24 at Yankee Stadium.
If Villa does play on Sunday, that could mean bad news for the Reds. The former FC Barcelona star has scored seven goals in seven regular-season appearances against Toronto.
TFC VS. NYCFC: A HISTORY
The all-time series between these two sides is dead even, with three wins apiece and four draws.
NYCFC won the previous meeting this season, earning a 2-1 home decision back in June. But TFC beat the team from the Big Apple the last time they met at BMO Field – a 4-0 win for the Reds on July 30, 2017.
Two of Toronto’s three wins in the series came in the 2016 MLS playoffs. The last time NYCFC beat TFC at BMO was on June 20, 2015, in the first-ever meeting between the clubs.