TORONTO – Jesse Marsch's New York Red Bulls side have earned themselves a reputation for high pressure that is known league-wide.
And it's an approach that the 2017 Supporters' Shield winners Toronto FC know they must be aware of as they prepare to open their 2017 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs at Red Bull Arena Monday in the first leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinal (7 pm ET | FS1, TSN 4, TVAS).
“They'll come out with intensity, with fire; they're going to work hard, try to tilt the bar in their favor,” TFC coach Greg Vanney said Thursday. “It's not in Jesse's nature to be passive or to sit back. There are going to be a fair share of bumps and kicks to be disruptive.”
Defender Drew Moor, who dueled against Marsch during the Red Bulls boss's playing days, knows there could be some lingering bitterness after Toronto defeated New York 4-2 on the last day of September to wrap up their Supporters' Shield honor.
That, combined with the Red Bulls' stunning victory over Chicago in the Knockout Round on Wedesday, should provide plenty of warning to the Reds of what they're up against.
“Marsch teams play exactly the way he played," Moor said. "He wears his emotions on his sleeve; his teams step on the field that way. There is a lot of chatter, talk, excitement when they play together.”
That doesn't necessarily mean they will be easy to figure out.
“They are a weird team: sometimes they don't want the ball, sometimes they want the ball,” said midfielder Victor Vazquez. “But they also have really good players: [Sacha] Klestan, Bradley Wright-Phillips; [Tyler] Adams is playing well. ... You have to be aware of this. They let you play, but they are really fast on the counter.”
On Wednesday, the key for New York was getting a pair of opening goals inside of 11 minutes.
“Chicago put themselves under the eight-ball,” said Vanney. “A couple mistakes and they're chasing the game. That's tough against the Red Bulls. If you get stretched out, they get you on the counter.”
It was a preview as well.
“That's what we have to expect away, " said winger Justin Morrow. "Away in the first leg ... they're going to throw their all in the beginning.”
“You can't make mistakes, give them opportunities,” cautioned Vanney. “They are quick to capitalize. In a transition, one-, two-, three-passes tops, they can be in on your goal.”
Although TFC won the last meeting, the Red Bulls showed signs of that capability, when they cut a 2-0 deficit in half on a three-pass move scything up the middle. Daniel Royer and Adams combined to set up Gonzalo Veron.
That doesn't mean a side that finished its regular season setting a record for most points earned in an MLS season should be fearful of a Red Bulls team they're unbeaten against in their last three games.
“But we can't be naive; not think about what the opponent's philosophy is or what their strategies could be and be prepared for what they can bring,” Vanney said. “We have to be, but understand what our strengths are, play to [them], try to make the game look like how we want it to.”
“The Red Bulls are a great disruptor of people's style of play, that's what they like to do. [We need to] be prepared, smart, and get the game back into our vision as soon as we can.”
While New York are good at what they do, TFC assistant Robin Fraser wouldn't say they're all that unique.
“There are a lot of teams that press well," he said. "Some are more dedicated to it than others; some make good choices about when to press and when not to. [New York] are certainly among the better pressing teams in the league.”