TFC confidence soars heading to N.Y.

Toronto F.C. defender Dan Gargan, seen battling a member of the Columbus Crew earlier this season,...

Toronto F.C. defender Dan Gargan, seen battling a member of the Columbus Crew earlier this season, says two wins last week against Vancouver and the return to health of some key players has boosted club confidence heading into Wednesday's game in New York against the Red Bulls. (REUTERS)

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:50 PM ET

TORONTO - A glance at the standings suggests Toronto FC will be in tough on the road against the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday night.

New York sits second in the East and has scored the most goals in Major League Soccer while TFC sits second-last and only one team has scored fewer goals than the Reds.

But, looks can be deceiving as these clubs currently are headed in opposite directions.

An injury to influential forward Luke Rodgers, poor goalkeeping and a recent blockbuster trade appear to have thrown the Red Bulls a tad off-kilter.

Meanwhile, the Reds will come in buoyed by two wins over Vancouver last week — one for the Canadian championship — a return to health by several players and by the knowledge designated players Torsten Frings and Danny Koevermans are just two weeks away from providing a significant lift.

Midfielder Julian de Guzman said the events of last week have sparked the Reds.

“For sure, it’s a huge turning point for the club, those were huge signings, these are things that the team needs,” de Guzman said recently.

De Guzman and defender Dan Gargan also feel TFC is finally getting what the coaching staff of Aron Winter and Bob de Klerk is asking for.

“The approach now is different. A lot of guys are catching on to what Bob and Aron want.

“It will take time, but things are coming along. Now that we won the Canada Cup, it’s definitely something we can use to get an extra push,” de Guzman said.

Added Gargan: “We certainly haven’t been where we want to be and by no means are we there yet, but we’re definitely making strides and moving in the right direction.

“They can tell us all day long what they want and what they want to see, but until it clicks with one another, (the result will be) an inconsistent effort. The effort’s been there and now it’s starting to come together.”

According to the club, de Guzman — who was excellent against Vancouver on Saturday — and Nana Attakora are questionable against New York but Alan Gordon should be back in the lineup and Jacob Peterson’s return is also a strong possibility.

TFC will travel to Houston for a Saturday clash with the Dynamo, but will then have 11 days off to get back to optimal health.

The Red Bulls started the season on a tear but have come back to earth.

While the offence has been excellent ­— Thierry Henry leads MLS with eight goals — the defence has been porous and the keeping suspect.

Bouna Coundoul has made some massive errors of late, while ex-Red Greg Sutton’s play has been merely fair.

Henry missed Sunday’s game against San Jose due to the flu but should be back. His replacement, Joel Lindpere saved New York with an 85th-minute strike — his second of the game — in a 2-2 tie.

The recent trade of former Reds star and captain Dwayne De Rosario for Dax McCarty requires a lineup adjustment that will take some time.

The New York players were caught completely off guard by the trade — de Guzman said he had talked to De Rosario just hours before the trade and his Canadian international teammate had told him how happy he was in New York.

Swapping De Rosario’s offence for McCarty’s defence seems like a wise move in the long-run, but things likely won’t click right away. Combine that with the possible absences of stars Rodgers, Rafa Marquez and, perhaps, Henry and the Reds suddenly have a shot at coming away with a rare road point.

TFC remains winless on the road this season.

KICKOFF

Toronto FC (3-7-9) at New York Red Bulls (5-3-1-)

8 p.m. TSN

Marquee matchup:

Richard Eckersley vs. Thierry Henry

The British export has been exceptional for the Reds, but will be up against the speedy Henry who is tied for the league lead with eight goals. With his trademark physical play, Eckersley can make the Frenchman think twice about getting close to Stefan Frei.

Points of interest:

* Red Bulls sit second in standings and lead Major League soccer in goals for (29).

* TFC’s minus-12 goal differential is last in league, meanwhile New York’s plus-6 is tops in East.

* Ex-Reds keeper Greg Sutton could draw start given poor recent play of Bouna Coundoul.

* Red Bulls feeling heat after collecting just three of a possible 12 points in past four matches.

TFC keys:

* Score early. Reds can get the crowd grumbling with an early strike against the struggling Red Bulls.

* Test the keeper. As noted above, New York’s keepers have had a lot of trouble keeping balls from getting behind them. New York has allowed 23 goals, more than all but four teams in MLS.

ryan.wolstat@sunmedia.ca


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