Toronto FC takes on the Galaxy, looking to build on recent rebound in form
Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney shares a moment with Nick DeLeon (18) following their MLS soccer match against Real Salt Lake Saturday, May 18, 2019, in Sandy, Utah. The emotion has subsided since Toronto FC's controversial 1-1 tie at D.C. United. Now coach Vanney is looking to build momentum and pick up points against his former team Â¬-- the Los Angeles Galaxy. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ AP/Rick Bowmer
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, July 3, 2019 6:53PM EDT
The emotion has subsided since Toronto FC's controversial 1-1 tie at D.C. United. Now coach Greg Vanney is looking to build momentum and pick up points against his former team.
Toronto had to settle for a single point Saturday after D.C. United pulled even on a 92nd-minute Wayne Rooney penalty at Audi Field. The penalty, called after video review, came despite Toronto protests that fullback Richie Laryea had been fouled in the buildup of the play.
Toronto also thought a penalty was warranted in the 80th minute when substitute Ayo Akinola was bodychecked to the ground in the D.C. United penalty box.
Four days later, the anger had dissipated.
"It's emotion in the moment and/or soon thereafter the moment," Vanney said. "But we move on and turn our attention and focus on the next one -- L.A."
Vanney, who spent seven seasons as a player in Los Angeles, looks to continue the improvement shown in the last two games as TFC visits the Galaxy. Prior to the tie in Washington, Toronto (6-7-5) edged visiting Atlanta 3-2 to snap an eight-game winless streak (0-5-3).
Toronto will be boosted by the return of Canadian internationals Jonathan Osorio and Ashtone Morgan from the Gold Cup. Jozy Altidore and captain Michael Bradley, plus new signing Omar Gonzalez, remain at the CONCACAF championship with the U.S. team.
Defender Chris Mavinga and Brazilian fullback Auro are both expected to be available Thursday, possibly off the bench. Fellow defender Eriq Zavaleta should also be back.
Centre back Drew Moor continues to work his way back from a hamstring injury.
With Altidore missing, Spanish playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo has been pushed up front. And Vanney has begun to get the wing play he has desired for months with Nick DeLeon, Tsubasa Endoh and Nova Scotia teenager Jacob Shaffelburg stepping up.
Liam Fraser, a holding midfielder who has also served as an emergency defender, has also proven to be reliable and versatile.
"I think a lot of guys are learning on the fly. And their performances are improving," said Vanney. "Our execution is improving. In return, some of the results are going our way."
Los Angeles is missing midfielders Jonathan dos Santos and Uriel Antuna, both with Mexico at the Gold Cup. Chris Pontius (hamstring) and Sebastian Lletget (pelvis) are listed as questionable.
The Galaxy (10-7-1) are coming off a 3-0 loss in San Jose. They have been on a yo-yo run of late, going win-loss-win-loss-win-loss and have won just four of their last 11 matches (4-7-0).
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been held scoreless in his last two outings after scoring on a glorious bicycle kick against New England on June 2. Still the 37-year-old Swede was tied for second in game-winning goals with four (behind Rooney's five) headed into midweek play.
Ibrahimovic ranked second in the league with 11 goals this season. He has 33 goals in 41 career MLS matches, averaging a goal every 103 minutes.
"We've got to do our best to make things difficult for him," said Vanney. "Make it difficult for them to get service into him."
But even that sometimes doesn't do the trick. Ibrahimovic showed that when he scored his 500th career goal in spectacular fashion in the Galaxy's 5-3 loss in Toronto in their only meeting last season.
Like a ballet dancer, the big Swede twisted his body and lashed his right leg high in the air as he turned, knocking the ball in to the amazement of the BMO Field crowd.
"It's not like he needs many opportunities. And he doesn't even need perfect opportunities," said Vanney. "The one he scored on us at our place was seemingly impossible and somehow he managed to get his foot on it and get enough power on it and direct it in to a spot where we couldn't get to it."
Toronto will be looking to erase memories of July 4 last year when Darwin Quintero scored a hat trick in a 4-3 Minnesota United win. Two of Quintero's goals came from chips.