Depleted Toronto FC and New York Red Bulls meet at BMO Field with points at a premium

·6 min read

TORONTO — Wednesday's game between Toronto FC and the New York Red Bulls is hardly a marquee matchup, with the two teams anchoring the bottom of the Eastern Conference and missing a combined 20-plus players through injury, suspension or international duty.

"I can't remember (a game) where it's so extreme for both teams," Toronto coach Bon Bradley, who has been around the soccer block more than a few times, said referencing the roster disruptions. "Yeah, it's crazy."

Both clubs will be desperate for the three points on offer.

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Toronto (2-4-6) has lost three straight in all competitions and won just one of its last nine games (1-4-4). TFC has been outscored 10-4 in losing four of its last five.

The most recent setback was a 2-0 weekend loss in Montreal that could have been a 6-0 drubbing had it not been for the heroics of goalkeeper Sean Johnson. Toronto attempted just two shots during the game — neither of which was on target — the club's lowest shot output in league play since 2010.

The Red Bulls (2-4-6) are coming off a 1-0 weekend win over visiting New York City FC, a victory that dropped Toronto (2-4-6) to 15th and last in the Eastern Conference. The Red Bulls stand 14th on goal difference.

The New York team is 2-0-0 under new coach Troy Lesesne, who was handed the head coaching job through the end of the 2023 MLS season after the team parted ways with Gerhard Struber on May 8 in what the club said was a mutual decision.

The 39-year-old Lesesne joined the franchise in January 2022 as an assistant coach after serving as head coach and technical director of New Mexico United of the United Soccer League Championship club.

Before the coaching change, the Red Bulls had won just two of 11 games (2-3-6). New York downed D.C. United in a U.S. Open Cup game in Lesesne's debut at the helm.

The good news is both TFC and the Red Bulls are just three points out of a playoff position in the tight Eastern Conference.

The Red Bulls be missing four players who started against NYCFC. Centre backs Sean Nealis and Andres Reyes and midfielder Cristian Casseres Jr. are all suspended due to to yellow card accumulation while Daniel Edelman, who lined up alongside Casseres in centre midfield, has joined the U.S. team for the FIFA U-20 World Cup which starts Saturday in Argentina.

Belgian international winger Dante Vanzeir, one of the Red Bulls' designated players, is serving a six-game ban for racial abuse in an April 8 game against the San Jose Earthquakes.

There is also a lengthy injured list with defenders Matt Nocita (hamstring) and Kyle Duncan (knee), midfielders Frankie Amaya (ankle), Luquinhas (adductor), Lewis Morgan (hip) and Steven Serwadda (knee), and forward Serge Ngoma (hamstring) all listed as unavailable.

"We have some challenges, I think, that we have to again face on Wednesday in terms of who's available for selection," Lesesne said Tuesday. "But we want to continue to focus on opportunities for guys. And there's opportunities in this to go and prove themselves against a really really historically talented club in Toronto. Even though they have their challenges, it's going to be a difficult test for us.

"But we're excited about it and we're ready to go and get after it Wednesday night."

Bob Bradley said Tuesday that captain Michael Bradley, his son, had undergone a successful procedure on the weekend on his hamstring in England. The surgery, to attach the muscle to the tendon, was done by Dr. Ernest Schilders, considered a world-leading expert in adductor and groin problems in athletes.

The 35-year-old midfielder has not played since April 8, missing the last five games. He is expected to be out eight to 10 weeks.

In addition to Bradley, Toronto's injured list includes defenders Matt Hedges, Sigurd Rosted and Shane O'Neill, midfielders Alonso Coello, Jonathan Osorio and Victor Vazquez and forward Jordan Perruzza.

Unlike the Red Bulls, Toronto does not specify injuries on its weekly report. For those keeping track, all of the TFC injuries are lower body with the exception of Rosted (upper body).

Toronto midfielder Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty is suspended after being sent off for two yellow cards in Saturday's loss in Montreal, the second of which was for time-wasting in returning the ball for a throw-in.

On Tuesday, the MLS disciplinary committee handed the 18-year-old an additional one-game ban and an undisclosed fine for returning to the field at the conclusion of the game when the two teams got involved in a melee. As a result, Marshall-Rutty will also miss TFC's match Saturday at Austin FC.

The disciplinary committee also issued an undisclosed fine to Montreal forward Romell Quioto and Toronto defender Richie Laryea and forward C.J. Sapong "for inciting and/or escalating a mass confrontation." And it found both Toronto and Montreal in violation of the league's mass confrontation policy with each issued an official warning for their first violation this season.

"Jahkeele is a young player. He was very frustrated," said Bob Bradley, who disapproved of Montreal coach Hernan Losada interjecting himself between his player and Marshall-Rutty on the sideline on the play.

"There's no place for a player to come out of the locker room but he lost control and came out when the whistle blew," Bradley said of Marshall-Rutty. "We did the best we could to get him off the field quickly."

Toronto fullback Raoul Petretta and forward Adama Diomande are listed as questionable.

Bradley says Petretta will be on the bench Saturday and could see some action. Perruzza, Hedges and Rosted are getting close to a return but are not ready for this game. Diomande is day to day, depending on how his Achilles reacts to exertion.

"That makes him literally a question mark every day. (It's) frustrating for him and makes it hard right now to count on him," said Bradley.

The 33-year-old Diomande started the first two games of the season but exited the second outing at halftime due to injury. He has played just 44 minutes since, spread over three games.

The Red Bulls, who host CF Montreal on Saturday, are unbeaten in their last seven matches (5-0-2) against Toronto.


Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 16, 2023.

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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