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Leagues Cup Group Stage: NYCFC vs Toronto at Red Bull Arena

Mounsef Bakrar is in the lineup, but will he start?

Start 'em young |

We are in the second round of the Leagues Cup group stage, a do-or-die game for New York City FC when they face Toronto FC in New Jersey at Red Bull Arena: Here is your NYCFC vs Toronto Game Day Hub.

Oppo Research: 5 things about Toronto FC

Game Day Essentials
  • Leagues Cup Group Stage: NYCFC vs Toronto FC
  • Date and Time: Wednesday, July 26, 7:30 pm ET
  • Kickoff Time: 7:39 pm ET
  • Venue: Red Bull Arena
  • Bruce Arena Forecast: Hot, humid, sticky 85˚F/30˚C
  • Watch: Apple TV (free)
  • Listen: English and Spanish broadcasts on NYCFC Radio
  • Officiating Crew: Guillermo Pacheo (referee), Enrique Martínez, Max Gómez (assistant referees), Iván López (fourth official), Allen Chapman (VAR), Tristley Bassue (assistant VAR)
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NYCFC vs Toronto preview

An NYCFC that plays pretty football, but that can’t score and has trouble defending, will host a dysfunctional Toronto that can’t score and has trouble defending. Fun!

The X-factors are NYCFC’s Mounsef Bakrar and Toronto’s Federico Bernardeschi.

Bakrar is the club’s brand-new No 9, a 22-year-old Algerian who played in Croatia and looks delightfully dangerous in attack. Young, untested, and full of potential, he’s a very NYCFC signing.

Bernardeschi is a certifiable superstar, a 29-year-old who starred in Série A and won silverware for the Italian national team. An expensive veteran with a strong pedigree, he’s a very Toronto signing.

This will be a test of two footballing philosophies as much as it is a contest between two teams.

The keys to a good run in Leagues Cup

NYCFC vs Toronto H2H















The head-to-head between the two clubs favors Toronto — NYCFC have a losing record against only seven MLS clubs, and TFC is one of them.

Still, the two have been evenly matched over the years. Earlier this season, a lifeless NYCFC allowed Toronto to notch a rare win when New York City were shut out at BMO Field. Last season, NYCFC lost again at BMO Field when the referee incorrectly denied them a penalty, then won a wild 5-4 game at Citi Field.

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  • Player Availability: James Sands is unavailable after suffering a concussion in Sunday night’s game against Atlas. New signing Birk Risa is waiting for his visa to be processed, and will join the team once his paperwork is in order.
  • Will Mounsef Bakrar be in the Starting XI? He joined the team only last week, and had just one training session with the squad before coming on as a late sub in Sunday’s game against Atlas. This is a team that desperately needs a No 9 on the field, but head coach Nick Cushing might ease Bakrar into the lineup and start him on the bench
  • Will Baki tuck in his shirt again? Many fans noticed that his jersey was tucked into his shorts in the style of a U-7 player. It was endearing tbh.
  • Will Talles Magno see playing time? NYCFC is rumored to be shopping around the winger, which might keep him off the field.
  • Will Alfred Morales or Justin Haak fill in for Sands? Morales has been the Sands backup of choice for Cushing, but that was in part because Haak was tasked with filling in for an injured Thiago Martins in central defense. Now that the back line is at full fitness, the in-form Haak might get the start.
  • Will NYCFC fans fill the stands? Sunday’s game at Citi Field had an announced attendance of 22,267, one of the highest in Leagues Cup competition. But a midweek game in New Jersey might draw closer to 5,000.
Leagues Cup is here. Do you care?

Toronto FC

  • Player Availability: An injury-plagued Toronto will be without Lorenzo Insigne and Michael Bradley. In addition, Adama Diomande, Cristan Gutiérrez, and Victor Vázquez are also out with injuries.
  • Richie Laryea is thought to have already left Toronto, which he joined on loan from Nottingham Forrest, but nothing official has been announced.
  • Yesterday, Toronto announced that Aye Akinola joined San Jose Earthquakes on loan. The forward didn’t score for Toronto this year, but notched two goals in 2022.
  • This afternoon, Toronto announced that center-back Matt Hedges was traded to Austin FC for up to $475,000 in GAM.
  • Where will Toronto find goals? The team is tied for a league-worst 18 goals in 24 games, and five of those were scored by Bradley, Insigne, and Laryea.
  • Will NYCFC finally score on Sean Johnson? The former New York City captain and goalkeeper kept a clean sheet against his old team back in April.
  • Read more about the strengths and weaknesses of this side in Oppo Research: 5 things about Toronto FC.
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