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NYCFC vs Toronto FC – Preview and 4 Questions

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The Sean Johnson NYCFC Fans Will ALWAYS Remember.
Dec 5, 2021; Chester, PA, USA; New York City FC goalkeeper Sean Johnson (1) celebrates with his team after beating the Philadelphia Union to win the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2021 MLS Playoffs at Subaru Park. New York City FC won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

It was a date marked on the calendar as soon as both sides found out Goalkeeper and Former New York City Football Club captain Sean Johnson was leaving the club he won a championship with and departing for the Province of Ontario. A fair number of folks in the NYCFC organization got a sense that Johnson would be departing for a new team and now, the first of two matchups between the Boys from the Bronx and their former leader. First round, in Toronto.

Seems like a lifetime ago.

Toronto FC has been off to a sluggish start, pulling in just 9 points in it’s first 9 games and sitting in 12th place this season. It’s still early in the season but frustrations are already showing for the fanbase up there having missed the playoffs each of the past two years and the 2017 championship run further in the rear view mirror. As always 5 questions worth asking as these two squads face off for the first time this year.

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Apr 1, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New York City goalkeeper Luis Barraza (1) kicks the ball against the New England Revolution during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

1) The Student vs The Teacher. Let’s start with the obvious one. NYCFC Goalkeeper Luis Barraza admitted frustration at the lack of playing time during Johnson’s tenure, but also admitted to learning a great deal. It’s been a slow but solid growth for the 26 year old. Despite only having one clean sheet on the season he’s kept opponents to just one goal in each of the last five matches. On the other hand it’s been more up and down for Johnson this season. After giving up 5 goals in his first 5 matches, he’s given up 8 in the past 4, including 4 last week to Philly (three of which came from Player of the Week Mikael Uhre). On the upside for Reds fans, he has three clean sheets to Barraza’s one.

Statistically Barraza’s save percentage has been better through nine matches than Johnson this year and last. Very off radar however.

2) Can Toronto Remain Undefeated At Home? It’s at least better than their road record, but the Reds are 1-0-3 in four matches, with the team’s only win was at home back on March 18 against Inter-Miami. Before that you’d have to go back to August 27th to find a single team win. But that club is going to want to give Johnson a W against his old squad, so expect a bit more energy out of that squad.

3) If It Works, Don’t Fix It? NYCFC fired off three goals in the first 55 minutes against FC Dallas last week using a 4-3-3 setup with Santiago Rodriguez front and center. The system worked with Rodriguez getting two goals and wingers Talles Magno and Gabriel Perreira having a goal and an assist respectively. It was the team’s first win this season that wasn’t a one goal victory so there’s reason to be excited by this new lineup. Will head coach Nick Cushing work with the same format this weekend?

4) Can NYCFC Get That First Road Win? NYCFC is running 0-2-2 this season on the road. Their last match away from New York City was on April 1, when a late Talles Magno goal gave the club a point against first place New England. The team has struggled to put the ball in the net on the road this year, with just 2 goals on the road vs 10 at home. 5 of those home goals coming in the last two matches so it’s something to build on, but the team may be out of sync not having played on the road for nearly a month.

About the author – Scott Churchson has been an actor in every way for the past 13 years, from BG to stand in to stunts and principal, a sports writer for the past 4 and is one of the people that created Stream Punk Entertainment. He’s married to a veterinarian, has a cat with three working legs, a mother-in-law who just moved in and is just a simple man trying to make his way in the universe.

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