New England, Toronto FC face off for first place in MLS is Back Tournament group

New England, Toronto FC face off for first place in MLS is Back Tournament group

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The New England Revolution, whose defence has been breached just once in two games at the MLS is Back Tournament, expects a stiff test Tuesday from the Toronto FC attack.

Only Los Angeles FC, with nine goals, had scored more than Toronto’s six prior to Monday night’s Orlando-Philadelphia game at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex.

Toronto striker Ayo Akinola, filling in for Jozy Altidore while the U.S international regains full fitness, has five goals in two games. Spanish playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo has five assists, all on Akinola’s goals.

“They have the leading goal-scorer (Akinola) in the tournament, probably the leading goal-scorer in the league right now,” New England coach Bruce Arena said in his team’s pre-game availability. “A lot of people would say Pozuelo’s arguably the best player in the league, among others. He’s their playmaker and he’s a player we have to be aware of.

“But having said all this, who knows what kind of lineup they’ll present? Our biggest focus is on getting our team ready.”

The already potent Toronto offence could be boosted by a cameo from Altidore, who did not dress for TFC’s first two outings.

Tuesday’s victor will claim first place in Group C, which means an extra day’s rest and a date Sunday with one of the third-place finishers that advances to the knockout round of 16.

The loser would drop into third in the group if D.C. United beats Montreal in the later game Tuesday. A Toronto-New England tie combined with a D.C. United win would leave all three teams in five points, with tiebreakers coming into play.

“There are a lot of variables associated with this,” said Arena. “We have no guarantees of anything, although the probability is that we will advance out of group play.”

Both Toronto and New England have one win and one tie going into the game.

The Group C runner-up faces the second-place team from Group A, either Orlando or Philadelphia, on Saturday.

The Toronto-New England game kicks off at 9 a.m. ET, the first morning start for the Revs and second for TFC.

“We’ll make some changes because of the heat, humidity, and the short recovery from Friday night is a lot of wear and tear on players playing three games in a short period of time,” said Arena.

New England’s Spanish playmaker Carles Gil is questionable with a lingering left foot injury. Gil came out of Friday’s 1-1 tie with D.C. United in the 62nd minute.

Toronto fullback Justin Morrow, who exited Toronto’s tournament opener at halftime due to Achilles tendinitis, remains out. Midfielder Jonathan Osorio, who has yet to play, is questionable with a quad strain.

The TFC injury report makes no mention of Altidore, who spent the lockdown at his Florida home and was late rejoining the team after having to fulfil quarantine upon returning north of the border.

The Impact, who lost their first two games of the tournament, meet D.C. United in a 10:30 p.m. ET start.

“The only thing I can do right now is to be positive,” Montreal coach Thierry Henry said at his team’s availability, dismissing excuses from the Florida heat and humidity to Montreal’s late return to full team training due to local restrictions back home.

“We have to be positive. We have to go forward. We have to believe in what we’re trying to do,” he added. “And we have to trust the process. Now we have to be better in that process, obviously.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 20, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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