MLS Preview from The Sports Network (ET)

06/26/2014 3:03 PM

06/26/2014 3:08 PM

Toronto FC (6-4-1) at Red Bull New York (4-5-6), 8 p.m.

Harrison, NJ ( - Toronto FC and Red Bull New York will return to the pitch on Friday following a break to accommodate the group stage of the World Cup, though both sides will be without several key players due to the tournament.

The Red Bulls sent Roy Miller and Tim Cahill to the competition, and while Cahill's Australia side was knocked out after only three matches, Miller's Costa Rica could be poised for a lengthy stay in Brazil after a first-place finish in Group D.

Toronto will also be missing two players, though the Canadian side's absences are far more crippling. Midfield general Michael Bradley is still away with the United States national team while goalkeeper Julio Cesar remains in the competition as Brazil's first-choice stopper.

To make matters worse for Toronto, the Reds will face New York at Red Bull Arena, a place that has seen the Canadian club come away empty-handed in each of its four league visits to the venue.

Of course, Toronto does not have a particularly great record against the Red Bulls in any venue - the Reds are 4-10-4 all-time against New York in regular season matches.

But Ryan Nelsen's men managed to snap a 10-game winless run against New York when the Reds earned a 2-0 victory at BMO Field on May 17.

Jermain Defoe scored what turned out to be the winner in that match. The Englishman, who has scored seven goals for Toronto since joining the club in January, already has amassed four game-winning strikes for the Reds.

His recent rich vein of form has helped Toronto build a four-game unbeaten run, a stretch that has seen the club collect 10 points to climb to fourth place in the Eastern Conference.

"How I'd say this is, I don't think we are, as a team, playing as well as we can but we're getting more points than I probably thought we'd get after 11 games," Nelsen said. "It sounds like a big contradiction, but we're showing a lot of character and spirit, which I love. We have to get better, evolve as a team. What I wanted this Toronto FC team to be is, at least when teams play against us, (one where other teams) have to earn it to win it, they have to play really well to beat us."

New York is also on the up-and-up. After dropping three straight league games, the Red Bulls managed to get an impressive draw at Sporting Kansas City and a rare road win against the New England Revolution, snapping a 20-game winless streak in New England.

"I'm extremely proud of my guys," RBNY head coach Mike Petke said after the win. "I told them before the game that there were going to be periods tonight that were not going to be pretty and that I'm absolutely fine with that as long as they put the work in and play for each other. That's all I wanted, to be honest with you, at the end of the day. I was here the last time we won 10 years ago. I played in that game, so I am extremely proud of them tonight."

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