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NYCFC prepares to face improving Toronto FC
New York City FC knows this isn't the same Toronto FC squad.
Seven weeks after dominating Toronto in the second half en route to a 2-1 win at Yankee Stadium, NYCFC will face an improved and more confident group when it visits Toronto FC on Sunday afternoon at BMO Field.
On June 24, Greg Vanney's crew was in the middle of a six-game winless streak and the playoffs seemed like a dream. These days, there is more hope. Toronto (6-11-5) finds itself six points out of the final playoff spot heading into the weekend.
"Toronto, for now, is the champions of MLS, never forget it," New York City FC coach Domenec Torrent told mlssoccer.com. "I respect a lot this team and their coach because he was the best manager last year. That means it's a top team for me.
"It's not easy to play the CONCACAF (Champions League) and after that the MLS. But maybe right now they are in the best moment because they improved a lot. They changed some players and I think right now they are much better than, I don't know, two weeks ago."
Toronto FC returns home after a draw against Vancouver in the Canadian Championship, extending its unbeaten streak across all competition to six games. In MLS play, the club is unbeaten in its last three, after playing to a draw against league-leading Atlanta last weekend. Saturday's match will be the second in a stretch of four games in 10 days for Toronto.
"For us, it's just important that we keep growing from what we've built these past couple of weeks where we've gotten wins, we've gotten ties, we've gotten results. We need to keep that momentum going," defender Justin Morrow told reporters.
To do so, Toronto will have to do something no other team has done yet this season -- hand NYCFC (13-5-5) its first three-game winless streak of the season.
New York City is coming off a draw with Vancouver last Saturday, preceded by a loss to the Sounders in Seattle a week earlier. It was just the third time the team has failed to win in consecutive matches, and each streak has included one loss and one draw.
"They're versatile and they're well-prepared," Morrow said of New York City FC. "They have a lot of players that can hurt you in different ways. They know what they are as a team so we'll have to be prepared for them."
One of those players is star striker David Villa, who's expected to be available to face Toronto. Injured in the previous meeting in June, Villa was ready to return against Vancouver but was forced to sit it out after missing the MLS All-Star Game.
"I feel comfortable where we are with the team right now," New York City FC midfielder Alex Ring told mlssoccer.com. "The way we're playing and the results haven't been that bad, too, so I think we're meeting them at the right time."
Updated August 10, 2018