David Villa vs Sebastian Giovinco: How the strikers compare

Two sides expected to battle for MLS supremacy in 2018 will go head-to-head in the Eastern Conference again. It’s New York City FC vs Toronto FC and that also means David Villa vs Sebastian Giovinco in the scoring charts.

Toronto kick things off with the season opener on Saturday at home against Columbus Crew, while NYCFC aren’t in action until Sunday evening. They face a trip to SKC.

They were the top two sides in the East last season, however Toronto finished 12 points ahead, winning the Supporters’ Shield. Interestingly the pressure on Villa to deliver the good is seemingly more than Giovinco. NYCFC scored 56 goals last season, compared to Toronto’s 74.

Both players head into their fourth season. Villa is yet to win any silverware, while Giovinco and Toronto are looking to defend their historic treble from 2017. There is no doubting how influential they both are and how much of an impact they can have on how their side performs respectively. But how do the two compare?

David Villa vs Sebastian Giovinco in stats

David Villa vs Sebastian Giovinco compared

Their stats are incredibly similar. Villa has played in an additional eight games, mainly due to Giovinco’s injury struggles last season. Villa’s goal output is higher, having scored eight more goals.

However, Giovinco’s direct involvement in overall goals is where he comes into his own. In his 86 appearances he has contributed to 92 goals, with his 37 assists nearly doubling Villa’s 21.

Villa does however have a better minutes per goal ratio, making him the more clinical of the two with his chances.

Last season Villa finished on 22 goals, while Gio netted 16. They were outscored by Nemanja Nikolic, who topped the standings with 24. Both players will have an eye on winning the golden boot this season. Although personal accolades aren’t going to be their main aim, it’s going to be an interesting battle to watch.

Who will score more goals this season? 

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MLS Preview and Prediction: Toronto FC vs Montreal Impact

Major League Soccer: Toronto FC vs Montreal Impact

BMO Field – Wednesday, September 20 – [19:30 ET (00:30 BST)

Match Odds: Toronto 4/11 – Draw 15/4 – Montreal 6/1

Toronto FC vs Montreal Impact: Preview

Toronto FC take on Montreal Impact in the penultimate 401 Derby clash of the 2017 regular season. The two rivals come into the game in contrasting form, with Toronto on a red hot streak and Montreal really struggling.

Toronto made it six wins on the bounce with a 4-0 demolition over LA Galaxy on Saturday night. That away win was made even more impressive when you consider Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco didn’t travel to California.

Don’t miss: Will Toronto break the record for the highest MLS points tally?

The Reds are closing in on their first-ever Supporters’ Shield title. They are 11 points clear of NYCFC in second place. They need five points to guarantee top spot, with their playoff place already confirmed.

via @TorontoFC on Twitter

Montreal fell 3-2 at home to Minnesota on Saturday night, making it four-straight losses. The Impact found a bit of form through August, winning four on the spin. But since then, they’ve reversed their form and dropped four consecutive games.

They are six points outside the top six with six games to play. Failure to win on Wednesday night would leave them with a mountain to climb if they’re to make the postseason.

After making the playoffs for the past two seasons, it would be a serious step backwards for the franchise if they failed to make the top six this term. But that concern will likely become a reality with a loss at their rivals here.

Toronto won the reverse fixture 3-1 last month, with goals from Giovinco (2) and Altidore proving too much. The Reds also beat Montreal over two legs to win the Canadian Championship back in June.

Toronto FC vs Montreal Impact: Team News

Toronto FC should welcome back star attacking duo Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco here after both were rested for the trip to LA. Benoit Cheyrou and Nick Hagglund are both ruled out through injury once again. Greg Vanney might make changes to his side again here, with a trip to New England coming up on Saturday.

Montreal Impact’s only injury absentee remains Ambroise Oyongo, as he is ruled out for the season. The Impact face a tricky trip to Atlanta United on Sunday night and might have to rotate the squad here as a result.

Toronto FC vs Montreal Impact: Key Points

Toronto FC’s last five: W/W/W/W/W

Montreal Impact’s last five: W/L/L/L/L

Key Stat: It’s been almost a year since Toronto FC lost a home game during the regular season. Their last defeat came in October last year, when DC United picked up a 2-1 victory at BMO Field.

Key Player: Sebastian Giovinco – The Atomic Ant was rested for the weekend trip to LA but he should be back and ready to attack Montreal on Wednesday. He has played more games against Montreal than against any other team in his career, scoring eight in 14 against them.

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Toronto FC vs Montreal Impact: Prediction

Toronto FC 3-0 Montreal Impact – The fact is, Toronto FC are the best side in MLS right now. They are riding a six-game win streak and haven’t lost for two-and-a-half months. Montreal, on the other hand, have lost four-straight games and look to be in trouble. Their playoff hopes are fading fast and defeat here would leave them up against it. But with such a contrast in form between these rivals, it’s tough to see anything other than a convincing home win.

MLS Preview and Prediction: Toronto FC vs Portland Timbers

Major League Soccer: Toronto FC vs Portland Timbers

BMO Field – Saturday, August 12 – 18:00 ET (23:00 BST)

Match Odds: Toronto 4/6 – Draw 14/5 – Portland 15/4

Toronto FC vs Portland Timbers: Preview

Toronto FC welcome Portland Timbers to BMO Field on Saturday evening, as they look to extend their lead at the top of the standings.

The Reds are on course for a first Supporters’ Shield title. They have a three-point lead over their nearest chasers but know how quickly things can change in MLS. Their main focus will be continuing to pick up points to prevent the lead from slipping over the final weeks.

Toronto come into the weekend unbeaten in five games. They had to settle for a 1-1 draw away at DC United last weekend. But they’ve won eight of their last nine home games in MLS and remain undefeated at BMO Field all year.

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Portland Timbers picked up an important 3-1 win over LA Galaxy last Sunday. That result moved them up to fifth in the West and they are back on track for a playoff spot.

Caleb Porter knows how tough a game this will be for his side. They have never won away at Toronto and have only won one of their last ten road games in MLS.

The Timbers have back-to-back home games against the New York Red Bulls and Colorado Rapids coming up after Saturday’s game. They know they have a better chance of picking up wins in those matches. But that should mean they can have a free roll of the dice at Toronto here.

This will be the only regular season meeting between the two sides this season. Their only chance of meeting again before the year’s up would be if they face off for the 2018 MLS Cup in December. That can’t be ruled out. But goals are expected in what should be an open contest on Saturday.

Toronto FC vs Portland Timbers: Team News

Toronto remain without Steven Beitashour, Benoit Cheyrou and Oyvind Alseth. Other than those three, Greg Vanney has a full squad to choose from.

Portland will be without Roy Miller after he picked up a suspension for yellow card accumulation in Sunday’s win over LA Galaxy. Amobi Okugo and Vytas are doubts. Chance Myers, Gbenga Arokoyo and Marco Farfan are all ruled out through injury.

Toronto FC vs Portland Timbers: Key Points

Toronto FC’s last five: W/D/D/W/D

Portland Timbers’ last five: D/L/W/D/W

Key Stat: Portland have yet to win an away game at Toronto in MLS. The Reds have won three of the four previous clashes at BMO Field, outscoring the Timbers 8-4.

Key Player: Sebastian Giovinco – The Atomic Ant has hit form at the perfect time for Toronto FC. He has scored 11 goals with five assists in 18 games this season. Five of those goals have come in his last seven games. Portland have the fifth-worst defensive record in MLS this season, so don’t be surprised if Giovinco punishes them.

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Toronto FC vs Portland Timbers: Prediction

Toronto FC 3-1 Portland Timbers – This should be a really entertaining game between two of the league’s most attacking sides. The Reds are favourites and should extend their lead at the top of the standings. They have the second-best home record in MLS in 2017 and Portland have never won a game at BMO Field. The hosts are top of the table for a reason, so expect them to prove too strong here.

MLS Preview and Prediction: Toronto FC vs Houston Dynamo

Competition: Major League Soccer – Toronto FC vs. Houston Dynamo
Venue: BMO Field – Friday, April 28 – 19:30 ET (00:30 BST)
Match Odds: Toronto 8/15 – Draw 3/1 – Houston 9/2

Match Preview

Toronto FC welcome Houston Dynamo to BMO Field as Week 9 springs into life with this intriguing inter-conference clash.

Toronto got their first home win of the season in last week’s 3-1 victory over Chicago Fire and will be looking to follow that up with another three points in front of their own fans as they try to climb the Eastern Conference.

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The Reds are sitting in seventh place coming into the weekend but are only five points off Orlando at the top and will feel they are now in a position to start progressing after a fairly quiet start to the new season.

Greg Vanney’s men have only lost one of their last eight home regular season games – none of which have come this season – and they know they are expected to take the game to Houston here.

The Dynamo have been one of the real surprise packages so far in 2017. They enter Week 9 third in the West after posting a 4-1-2 record through their opening seven games.

The real positive for Houston has been the re-emergence of Erick ‘Cubo’ Torres, along with attacking players such as Alberth Elis and Rommel Quioto. The trio have scored 13 of the Dynamo’s 15 goals this term and look dangerous every time they come forward.

Houston have lost both away games so far this term though, and that will be the major worry for Wilmer Cabrera heading into Friday’s game in Toronto. They fell 4-2 at Portland before more recently suffering a 2-0 loss in New England.

It’s been almost two years since the Dynamo won away at an Eastern Conference side and they must start to change that record if they are to challenge for the Supporters’ Shield this term.

This will be the 21st MLS clash between the two sides. Toronto have only picked up four wins in the previous 20 games against Houston and are currently winless in four against the Texans.

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Team News

Toronto still have five players out through injury with Clint Irwin, Drew Moor, Ashtone Morgan, Chris Mavinga and Jason Hernandez all set to miss out again here. The positive news is that Drew Moor is only expected to be out for another two weeks after an irregular heartbeat was discovered.

George Malki remains out for the season for the Dynamo, who could also be without four first-teamers that are are all doubts. AJ DeLaGarza, Leonardo, Agus and Ricardo Clark are all carrying knocks and might not be passed fit in time for Friday’s contest.

Key Points

Toronto FC’s form: W/D/D/L/W

Houston Dynamo’s form: L/W/L/D/W

Key Stat: Houston haven’t won away at an Eastern Conference side in MLS since May 2015, although that victory came at BMO Field in their most recent trip to Toronto.

Key Player: Sebastian Giovinco – The Atomic Ant is back and has the fire burning in his belly if his reaction to being substituted in last week’s win over Chicago is anything to go by. Giovinco got two in last Friday’s victory and now has three in his last three. He got off to a slow start this season but is looking on his way back to his scary best – something the Dynamo defence will be very nervous about.

Score Prediction

Toronto FC 3-1 Houston Dynamo – It’s difficult to see the Dynamo’s road form picking up on Friday night. Toronto are unbeaten at BMO Field so far this term and got their first win against Chicago last week. The Dynamo attack have impressed and will expect to find the net but with Giovinco and Jozy Altidore looking like they’re nearing top form, the Reds should prove too strong.

Relief for Toronto as Giovinco’s injury not thought to be serious

Sebastian Giovinco’s injury is not thought to be serious, despite initial concerns as he limped off the field in Toronto’s 2-2 draw away to Philadelphia Union on Saturday evening.

Toronto fans would have feared the worst when they saw the Italian star replaced by Tosaint Ricketts in first-half stoppage time, but Greg Vanney revealed after the game that the injury is not as serious as it appeared.

“He’s OK,” the Toronto head coach said after the game. “He’s sore. It was a contusion around the side of the leg. When that gets swollen and tightened up, it’s tough to loosen up and move. We’ll see how he progresses over the next couple of days.”

Giovinco was forced off after a heavy challenge from defender Oguchi Onyewu, just moments before Toronto then earned a penalty which Jozy Altidore dispatched to get them back into the contest.

The Reds then went 2-1 up on 71 minutes thanks to a Justin Morrow goal but were pegged back two minutes later when CJ Sapong rounded Clint Irwin to seal a draw.

Toronto have started the season with back-to-back road draws but will be frustrated after letting their lead slip at Philadelphia, just a week after Giovinco missed a penalty at Real Salt Lake in that opening 0-0 draw.

They travel to Vancouver to take on the Whitecaps next weekend but it is unclear whether Giovinco will be back in time to play on the artificial turf at BC Place.

MLS 2017 Season Preview and Predictions

The 2017 MLS Season is here at last. A record-high 22 teams will battle for this year’s MLS Cup in what is Major League Soccer’s 22nd season. Two new expansion franchises enter the league this year, with Atlanta United joining the Eastern Conference and Minnesota United joining the West, while Orlando City’s brand new soccer-specific stadium will host MLS matches for the first time too. The top six in each conference will make the playoffs once again, but with 11 sides now in each, things are sure to be more competitive than ever before in what could be the most unpredictable season in the league’s history.

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The New Boys

It’s been a busy offseason for Atlanta and Minnesota, with both sides dealing with the challenge of building a squad that can jump straight into MLS and compete. No expansion side has made the playoffs at the first attempt since the Sounders did in 2009, and that will undoubtedly be the aim for both of this year’s new sides in 2017.

Atlanta have splashed the cash to build a team that, on paper at least, looks good enough to earn a place in the postseason at the first attempt. Former Barcelona head coach Tata Martino is the man in the hotseat tasked with getting a talented young group of players to deliver on their preseason promise. Three south American Designated Players have been signed – all under the age of 23, with each expected to get fans off their seats from the first whistle.

They’ll be plenty of fans in those seats too, given the fact Atlanta have already sold a staggering 30,000 season tickets before a ball has been kicked. Expansion sides tend to flatter to deceive in their first campaigns, but Atlanta looks like the sort of team ready to make a real splash.

By stark contrast, Minnesota United have been much more careful in terms of spending. They have not signed a single DP ahead of the opening weekend, with any big spending likely to take place in the summer once the squad has found its feet. Instead, Targeted Allocation Money has been spent to build the squad, along with some clever trading to bring in the likes of Johan Venegas and Kevin Molino. Molino in particular is expected to shine under former Lions boss Adrian Heath, who has his second chance to get an expansion side into the playoffs at the first attempt this season.

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The Loons have also kept a host of names from their NASL days, and they now have to hope that their trust in those players pays off in what is sure to be a fiercely competitive Western Conference. There have been some suggestions that this Minnesota side will be one of the worst in MLS history, but they look to have enough about them to prove those critics wrong.

Standout Signings

As always, there have been a host of changes to squads over the course of preseason. But unlike any other year, MLS clubs have started to look for younger talent as it has become clear all 22 sides are starting to prioritise longer-term goals. Atlanta’s trio of young DPs have already been mentioned, but they weren’t the only side to splash the cash on younger Designated Players this winter. FC Dallas have added striker Cristian Colman, Real Salt Lake have landed Albert Rusnak, Vancouver have brought in Yordy Reyna and Sporting Kansas City have moved to sign Gerso Fernandes. All of those names are sure to make an impression in 2017, along with a host of more ‘traditional’ DPs that have joined the league, although the following five are all still under the age of 30.

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LA Galaxy have added some raw pace by bringing in Roman Alessandrini from Marseille, NYCFC have added creativity by signing Maxi Moralez to replace Frank Lampard and Chicago have added firepower by bringing in Nemanja Nikolic. On top of that Portland have signed Sebastian Blanco, while Fredy Montero is back in MLS after four seasons abroad. He has joined the Vancouver Whitecaps and will be hoping to pick up where he left off with Seattle, where he scored 47 goals in 119 regular season games.

What’s for certain is that the new DP signings will give MLS a fresh feel in 2017. More quality should mean more entertainment and more goals. Oh, and more selection dilemmas for MLS Fantasy managers…

Emerging Stars

With MLS getting younger this year, there will be plenty of focus on some of the league’s emerging talents. Some were here last season and left an impression, while others are looking to prove their worth as early as possible. The average age of squads in MLS this season is now 26.3, with FC Dallas boasting the youngest squad with an average age of 24.31. Walker Zimmerman will look to continue his improvement as an MLS defender, but will also be hoping to make an impression on the international stage if he can keep getting better. Elsewhere, the likes of LA Galaxy’s Sebastian Lletget and NYCFC’s Jack Harrison will be looking to have breakout seasons so long as they can nail down regular starting roles.

Jack Harrison, MLS: NYCFC vs. LA Galaxy

Cody Cropper will be hoping this is the year he can become a standout goalkeeper. He had struggled for game time in England in the past but is now in New England, where he’ll expect to impress. While in New York, Sean Davis has the seemingly impossible task of trying to fill the void left by Dax McCarty’s departure to Chicago. But he should be giving the time on the field to prove his worth and will be looking to help lead the Red Bulls to the top of the East once more.

Who Will Be MVP?

As with any season, making a prediction like this before the first ball has even been kicked is brave stupid, but why not do it again? There are a host of new unpredictabilities all over the league this year but the same star names will expect to be challenging at the top end of the scoring charts, and for the MVP award too as a result. Sebastian Giovinco was probably shocked not to pick up the 2016 MLS MVP award, with David Villa instead scooping that award, and both attackers will once again be tipped to dominate defences from day one.

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Strikers have dominated the MVP award over the past five seasons, but playmakers such as Diego Valeri, Ignacio Piatti and Sacha Kljestan will fancy their chances of making a case for the honour if they can have standout campaigns.

But it’s impossible to overlook Giovinco. The Atomic Ant has scored 39 goals and picked up 31 assists in 61 regular season games and is arguably the greatest player to ever play in Major League Soccer. If he stays healthy, he’s surely going to be MVP.

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Who Will Win MLS Cup?

The only thing that’s even more brave stupid to predict than the MVP is picking the team that will lift MLS Cup nine months on from now. But hey, why not give that a go too? The way the Sounders marched to MLS Cup glory last season from a seemingly lost position in the summer was incredible, but is unlikely to be repeated this term given the increased competition and quality in the league. No side has retained the trophy for four seasons but the Sounders still have the tools at their disposal to put up a strong defence. LA Galaxy are usually in the mix but they are set for a transitional year and don’t look to be in a position to go and get their hands on a sixth title this year.

MLS Cup Final 2016 - Toronto vs Seattle Sounders

What does look likely is that the winner will come from the Western Conference for the eighth time in nine seasons. FC Dallas have still never lifted MLS Cup, which seems insane considering they’ve finished top of the West for two-straight seasons. They have all the tools to go all the way this year. Mauro Diaz is out for the first four months of the new season, which is a huge blow, but he’ll be back at a key time of the season and will be able to help Oscar Pareja’s men go all the way in 2017.

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Vancouver Whitecaps also look like contenders this year, as the addition of Montero should make them much more of a force this term. Toronto FC were one shootout away from winning the title last term, and if Giovinco and Jozy Altidore can remain healthy for the majority of the campaign, they will likely be there or thereabouts again.

MLS Playoffs Preview and Prediction: Toronto FC vs Montreal Impact

Competition: MLS Playoffs (Eastern Conference Final – Second Leg) Toronto FC vs. Montreal Impact 

Venue: BMO Field – Wednesday, November 30 – 19:00 ET (00:00 BST)

Match Odds: Toronto FC 8/15 – Draw 3/1 – Montreal Impact 9/2

Match Preview

Toronto and Montreal Impact are set for a thrilling encounter on Wednesday night, with a place in the MLS Cup Final up for grabs as they lock horns in the Eastern Conference Championship second leg.

The winner of Tuesday’s game will face Seattle in the 2016 MLS Cup Final, where a first-time winner is guaranteed. If Toronto advance, they will host the final, but Seattle will play hosts if the Impact progress. 

Toronto come into the second leg 3-2 down after a nightmare hour to forget in the game in Montreal. The tie looked like it could have been out of their reach but Greg Vanney’s side showed why you cannot write them off as they scored twice in the last half hour to set up this incredible return clash.

Given the fightback from Toronto they now look favourites to advance, but there is still plenty of work to do here against a Montreal side who will be kicking themselves for letting such a vital lead go in front of their own fans.

Toronto have been impressive at BMO Field in 2016. They have won their last three home games but worryingly they did lose to Montreal the last time they welcomed them here. Nothing other than a victory will see Toronto advance to their first MLS Cup Final.

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Montreal Impact will be itching to ensure they do not miss out on the final now. They have improved year-on-year and reaching their first MLS Cup Final would be another part of their history that will never be forgotten.

Mauro Biello needs to make sure his side are calm from the get-go here. They still have that one-goal lead, so they need to play their normal game and shape up defensively against a strong Toronto attack.

There will be added emotion for the Impact squad as this could be the last time Didier Drogba plays, and while there have been some ups and downs in his short spell at the club, he will be missed. The Ivorian will want to sign off at the club in style, like he has done throughout his career, so losing this will not be an option for him and the rest of the squad.

Montreal’s task is far from simple and they know they cannot afford to allow Toronto time on the ball, so high-press is an option. Breaking up play and countering will make Impact dangerous and difficult to deal with. They will be out to grab a couple of away goals, as Toronto did at the Olympic Stadium last weekend.

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Team News

Vanney has a completely fit squad for this tie. He will be expecting maximum effort from his starting XI to ensure they make it through and pull off an impressive comeback.

Andres Romero remains Montreal’s only injury concern. Biello will be unlikely to unsettled the balance of his squad too much going into this one, but there may well be some defensive changes in an attempt to tighten up that backline.

Key Points

Toronto FC’s last five: W/W/W/W/L

Montreal Impact’s last five: L/W/W/W/W

Key Stat: Form – Toronto have won their last three home matches.

Key Player: Sebastian Giovinco – The stage is set for Giovinco to show his class once again. If he is presented with even a sniff at goal he is likely to find the back of the net. Toronto need him now more than ever if they’re to make the final.

Photo: Toronto FC

Photo: Toronto FC

Score Prediction

Toronto FC 2-0 Montreal Impact – Toronto to make the most of their firepower and pick apart the Montreal defence on home soil. It will be a sour end to the season for Montreal if they are to exit the playoffs here considering the commanding position they were in and it will be some turnaround if Toronto can pull it off.

MLS Playoff Preview and Prediction: New York City FC vs Toronto FC

Competition: MLS Cup Playoffs (Eastern Conference Semifinal – Second Leg) – New York City FC vs. Toronto FC

Venue: Yankee Stadium – Sunday, November 6 – 18:30 ET (23:30 GMT) 

Match Odds: NYCFC 11/10 – Draw 5/2 – Toronto 21/10

Match Preview

New York City FC welcome Toronto FC to Yankee Stadium on Sunday in the second leg of their Eastern Conference Semifinal with a place in the Eastern final up for grabs.

There is a huge amount of work for Patrick Vieira’s side to do if they are to progress here. They suffered a sucker-punch in the first leg, conceding twice in the last six minutes to lose the game 2-0.

New York City FC fans will be behind their team from the off, they will be expecting their star-players to step up and be counted for.

One thing NYCFC have in their favour is their home form. They have been scoring freely at Yankee Stadium, eight in their last two, and they’re unbeaten in eight, winning seven.

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As previously mentioned, Toronto FC have their two-goal advantage, which they wouldn’t have thought of having heading into the last ten minutes in the first leg last weekend.

Greg Vanney will be expecting his side to put on a professional display and not present NYCFC with easy chances.

While Toronto don’t want to be sitting back and playing a defensive game, they can expect NYCFC to come at them. They will get chances on the counter and with their strike-force it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them score.

If Toronto can keep things tight in the first half New York City will become even more desperate and mistakes will inevitably come, they have to be patient and make sure they get the job done.

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Team News

New York City FC to remain without both Connor Brandt and Shannon Gomez.

Toronto FC have a full fit squad ahead of the second leg.

Key Points

NYCFC’s last five: W/W/L/W/L

Toronto FC’s last five: L/D/W/W/W

Key Stat: New York City FC have scored at least two goals in nine of their last ten home games. They will need to repeat that feat without conceding to take the tie to extra time at the very least.

Key Player: Frank Lampard – Many will suggest the spotlight is on his teammate David Villa to perform, but Lampard has always been the man for the big occasion throughout his career, scoring vital goals. He will be a huge concern for Toronto who, like Lampard’s opponents throughout the last two decades, will struggle to pick him up when he is in the right place at the right time.

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Score Prediction

New York City FC 2-1 Toronto FC – Heartbreak for NYCFC who will fall at this stage. Whatever the outcome they have had a superb season and are making progress. Everything is in Toronto’s favour and they should surely be able to get the job finished off here.

MLS Playoffs Preview and Prediction: Toronto FC vs Philadelphia Union

Competition: MLS Playoffs (Eastern Conference Knockout Round) – Toronto FC vs. Philadelphia Union

Venue: BMO Field – Wednesday, October 26 – 19:30 ET (00:30 BST) 

Match Odds: Toronto 4/6 – Draw 11/4 – Philadelphia 15/4

Match Preview

Toronto FC host Philadelphia Union in the first MLS Playoff clash of 2016 on Wednesday night, with these Eastern Conference rivals both in fairly poor form coming into the Knockout Round.

Toronto won their first game in six on the final day of the regular season on Sunday, but Philadelphia fell 2-0 at home to the Red Bulls and are now winless in seven coming into the postseason.

Toronto are heavy favourites to advance here. This is just their second-ever playoff appearance, but they will be desperate to do better than last season’s Knockout Round exit at the hands of Montreal.

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Greg Vanney knows his side should be winning this game but he must ensure his players stick to the gameplan and avoid any silly mistakes if they are to advance to the Conference Semifinals on Sunday.

For Jim Curtin and his Philadelphia side, this is a worrying position to be in. Yes, they are in the playoffs and will be thrilled to have held on to a top six finish. But at the same time, they are in horrendous form and look to be dead and buried before this one has even started.

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That does mean the pressure is slightly off them though, and they may look to take advantage of the fact that Toronto need to take the game to them on Wednesday night.

The Union earned a 1-1 draw at Toronto just over a month ago and will be looking to frustrate the hosts again here in what should be an intriguing opener to the 2016 MLS Playoffs.

Team News

Toronto have just the one injury concern as Ashtone Morgan remains a doubt as he continues to recover from foot surgery. Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore look set to continue in attack, with Michael Bradley playing behind in midfield.

Philadelphia Union are fortunate to only have one player ruled out here too, with Joshua Yaro still sidelined with concussion as well as a knee sprain. Jim Curtin had six players overcome knocks to be involved in the final-day loss against the Red Bulls and will need to pick his best possible team to have any chance of getting a result here.

Key Points

Toronto FC’s last five: D/D/L/D/W

Philadelphia Union’s last five: L/D/L/L/L

Key Stat: Philadelphia have not beaten Toronto in any of their last five clashes in MLS, losing four of those to Wednesday’s hosts. The Reds had won four on the bounce against the Union before their 1-1 draw a month ago.

Key Player: Sebastian Giovinco – The Atomic Ant is well and truly back for Toronto. He spent around six weeks on the sidelines but is back just in time for the playoffs and will be looking to fire the Reds to success over the next few weeks. Philadelphia will struggle to cope with his attacking threat if he’s on song and he’ll be the centre of attention for sure.

Sebastian Giovinco Toronto FC 2016

 

 

Score Prediction

Toronto FC 3-1 Philadelphia Union – Neither of these sides come into the playoffs in the sort of form they would want, but home advantage is always a huge factor, especially in the single-legged Knockout Round. Toronto are tough to break down and have Giovinco back at their disposal, so they shouldn’t have too much trouble brushing the Union aside here.

Toronto suffer enormous blow with Giovinco ruled out until October

Toronto FC‘s terrible weekend has continued with news emerging out of the club today that Sebastian Giovinco will be out of action with a thigh injury for the next four weeks.

Saturday’s 1-0 home loss to 10-man Montreal Impact was a tough pill to swallow for the Canadian side, but the injury picked up by Giovinco in that defeat was a much bigger concern.

Giovinco is the league’s best player, with the reigning MLS MVP currently tied for the Golden Boot lead with Bradley Wright-Phillips and David Villa on 16 goals, while also recording the second-most assists this season with 13.

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Since joining MLS in 2015, Giovinco has scored 38 goals and picked up 29 assists in 59 regular season matches. He is undoubtedly Toronto’s most important player and his absence will come as a major blow for the current Eastern Conference leaders.

The Italian helped TFC to reach the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time in club history last term, earning the MLS Golden Boot, MLS Newcomer of the Year and MLS MVP awards on the way.

Giovinco is expected to miss the Reds’ next four games, starting with the road trip to Chicago Fire on September 11 before consecutive home games against New York Red Bulls, Philadelphia Union and Orlando City.

The ‘Atomic Ant’ should be ready to return to action for the home tie against DC United on October 1, which will see him back on the field in the run up to the MLS Cup Playoffs.

Toronto FC lead the East by two points with seven matches to play. They are 12 points above the red line and should have a playoff place in the bag. But they would be devastated to lose out on the Eastern Conference title from here, so coping without Giovinco is going to be crucial.