Toronto FC looks to extend its franchise-record win streak to seven in suburban New York on Friday night while the Red Bulls try to stem an uncharacteristic three-game slide.
Since losing April 15 in Columbus, Toronto (7-1-4) has climbed to the top of the MLS standings with wins over Chicago, Houston, Orlando, Seattle, Columbus and Minnesota. It has outscored the opposition 13-2 en route.
The Red Bulls (5-6-1, sixth in the East) have gone the other way, outscored 8-1 in losses to Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Sporting Kansas City.
Last Sunday's 3-1 loss to the Galaxy snapped New York's 19-game win streak at Red Bull Arena, a run that matched the sixth-longest in league history. Still, the Red Bulls are 4-1-1 this season at their Harrison, N.J., home.
"They're a dangerous team, they're a good team," said Toronto coach Greg Vanney. "Sometimes you get in these little funks where things just aren't clicking or you lose track of something that was important that you were doing when you were getting results.
"And I'm certain that [Red Bulls coach] Jesse [Marsch] will dig deep and find out what those things are."
Vanney pointed to the off-season loss of U.S. international midfielder Dax McCarty, traded to Chicago, as one factor.
"He's an important person within the group not just because he's a good player but because it impacts the other guys around him a little bit."
Still, Vanney believes the Red Bulls will be in the playoff pack when push comes to shove.
Toronto, meanwhile, is on a roll as its racks up victories.
The MLS says its longest single-season win streak, excluding (now discontinued) overtime/shootout wins, is eight (set twice by the Los Angeles Galaxy, once in 1996 and once in 1998). Kansas City won nine straight over the 2011-12 seasons.
A win Friday and Toronto can match the seven straight wins by the Chicago Fire (1998) and Kansas City (2012).
The 1997-98 Galaxy team, which featured Vanney and Toronto assistant Robin Fraser and Dan Calichman, won 15 straight but that included shootouts. The Galaxy also won 12 straight in the 1996 season with the first eight games of that run coming in regulation time.
Injuries still a big factor for Toronto
Toronto will be missing star striker Sebastian Giovinco (quad) and defender Nick Hagglund (knee) Friday. Tosaint Ricketts has picked up the goal-scoring slack with game-winners in the last two matches.
Veteran centre back Drew Moor could see his first action since being diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat in mid-April.
"Match fitness is hard to simulate. I've built up as much as I possible can and told them I'm ready to go 90 [minutes] whenever they need me to," said Moor, who underwent a procedure in Boston to correct the heart problem.
Jason Hernandez has recovered from a bout of food poisoning that restricted him to 45 minutes action last Saturday so Vanney could start a back three of Hernandez, Eriq Zavaleta and Justin Morrow with Moor on the bench.
Midfielder Jonathan Osorio, who has had his own irregular heartbeat issue, is unlikely to play.
"It's a good team, it's smart team. It's not an easy challenge for us," Marsch told reporters this week. "But typically when we've had big challenges or we've fallen flat, we've responded. So we're going to find a lot out about this group Friday night."
New York confident playing at home
Toronto is 7-13-6 against the Red Bulls and 1-7-1 at Red Bull Arena, with the lone win coming in last year's season-opener.
"We still know how good we are at home, even falling flat on our face on Sunday [against L.A.]," said Marsch. "We still know this is a place where we're very good. We know we have a group that is going to be up for the challenge. They're a good team but they're not unbeatable."
New York star striker Bradley Wright-Phillips has eight career goals against Toronto.
After finishing a stretch of five games in 15 days last Saturday, the New York match kicks off another five-day, 15-game stretch. The next stop is Tuesday in Ottawa for the first leg of the Canadian Championship semifinal against the Fury.