Competition: Major League Soccer – New York Red Bulls vs. Toronto FC
Venue: Red Bull Arena – Sunday, March 6 – 13:30 ET (18:30 GMT)
Match Odds: NY Red Bulls 8/13 – Draw 3/1 – Toronto 4/1
The wait is over. The New York Red Bulls host Toronto FC in the 2016 MLS Season opener on Sunday evening in what is a fascinating early contest between two sides looking to challenge high up the Eastern Conference this season.
Both sides have enjoyed extensive preseason schedules and will hope to hit the ground running in a game that looks set to entertain.
The Red Bulls are the reigning Supporters’ Shield holders and will have their sights firmly set on retaining that title come the end of the 2016 regular season. Jesse Marsch has a great squad and will be confident of enjoying another fine season.
Toronto will start their second successive season with a long stint of away games as BMO Field continues to be worked on. Their trip to Red Bull Arena on Sunday will be the first of eight consecutive road games for the Canadian side.
They ended 2015 with a poor away record, losing six-straight games away from home, including their 3-0 playoff defeat at Montreal, and face a tough task in taking anything away from New York this weekend.
Both of these sides spent time in Florida this preseason and played each other in a light 70-minute game two weeks ago. That contest ended 1-1 but very little would have been learnt from that scrimmage.Embed from Getty Images
Both clubs have been waiting to get back into real action for months and Sunday’s 2016 opener is expected to set the tone for what should be another truly special year in MLS.
The Red Bulls beat Toronto 3-0 in the corresponding fixture last season, but the Reds retaliated with a 2-1 win at BMO Field in the most recent clash back in October.
New York Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch will be sweating over the fitness of Gonzalo Veron ahead of the season opener. The DP attacker suffered a hamstring injury in the Red Bulls’ final preseason game after scoring a hat-trick and is doubtful. Damien Perrinelle is continuing his road to recovery following his playoff injury last term but won’t feature here. New signing Gideon Baah is expected to start alongside Ronald Zubar in defence.
Toronto could enter the new season without striker Jozy Altidore. He is suffering with a hamstring injury that is likely to leave him on the sidelines for a couple more weeks. Sebastian Giovinco could start as the lone striker in Altidore’s absence.
New York Red Bulls’ preseason form: W/W/L/W/L/W/D/D/W
Toronto FC’s preseason form: D/W/W/W/L/D/L/D/L
Key Stat: New York Red Bulls have won seven of their last eight home games against Toronto and have only once lost on home soil to the Canadian side (October 2008).
Key Player: Sebastian Giovinco – The Toronto superstar is the league’s reigning MVP and is expected to pick up where he left off this season. A trip to Red Bull Arena represents a stiff challenge for the Italian forward but he scored what was probably his best MLS goals in the most recent clash with New York and will hope for another memorable game here.
Video – Sebastian Giovinco’s incredible solo goal against the Red Bulls last October (via MLS on YouTube):
New York Red Bulls 2-1 Toronto – This is expected to be a close-fought battle as neither side will want to suffer defeat in the opening game. That could lead to quite a cagey game but goals are still to be expected, given the attacking quality that both sides possess. The Red Bulls should make home advantage count by edging this one by the odd goal.