MLS is coming in hot after the international break, as four matches are set for Wednesday evening.
The playoff picture continues to become less blurry with every passing match night, and this particular set features several huge games when it comes to the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoff race. Let's get after it:
NYCFC vs. Toronto FC (7 pm ET | TSN, MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US)
Unbeaten in five and up to sixth in the East, hard numbers would suggest that, finally, Toronto are back. A (very) light examination of those results douses arctic water on that notion. All but one of those five games came against teams below the playoff line and resulted in just two wins.
They last beat a team currently above the playoff line on July 17. Before that it was June 26. Even in picking up wins over lesser opponents, they weren't overly convincing (barring the 5-1 win over FC Cincinnati, and there's no reason to kick Cincy when they're down by spitting up a number of stats to suggest why that result isn't exactly a big deal.)
TFC still are searching for the optimal formation, set of tactics and substitution pattern. The good news? They have Jozy Altidore and Alejandro Pozuelo leading the attack. Few teams can match that duo in peak form, though that pair hasn't hit peak form since April. More good news? After Wednesday, three of their five remaining matches come against teams below the playoff line. A first-round playoff game at BMO Field is very much a possibility.
NYCFC, meanwhile, are playing for a first-round bye and home-field advantage. They passed their first test without Heber, winning 2-1 against a 10-man New England Revolution side. Consider the below network passing graph, courtesy of Opta, in their last full game with Heber, against the Red Bulls: