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Atlanta United at Toronto FC: Three Questions For Waking the Red

TFC are looking for answers while Atlanta United are returning to MLS play. Will it equal a first-ever win for the Five Stripes at BMO Field?

MLS: Toronto FC at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

When Atlanta United last met up with Toronto FC, it was on May 8 - a 2-0 win at Mercedes-Benz Stadium that would stand as the third of what would turn out to be five consecutive shutout victories. After having the streak snapped at the Red Bulls on May 19 before dropping a 2-1 decision at Real Salt Lake, the Five Stripes have won its last four across all competitions, including a pair of victories in the U.S. Open Cup.

Things haven’t gone as well for Toronto FC: the loss to Atlanta in May started an eight-match winless streak (0-5-3) that has seen the Reds score a grand total of 5 goals. Is the international break a culprit, or is it the sign of something much deeper? That’s one of the questions I asked Benedict Rhodes of Waking the Red.

TFC haven’t won since a 2-0 victory at Orlando City on May 4. How much can its recent slide be contributed to missing players due to the international break, and how much can be contributed to other factors?

Missing players because of international games, as well as injuries, has definitely contributed to their recent slide, but I don’t think it is the only reason. There were games when Toronto FC had very good players on the pitch but simply performed poorly, and there were also missed chances to pick up more points than they did. The draws against DC United on May 15th and Vancouver on May 31st immediately come to mind, as Toronto FC were arguably the better team on both occasions, but failed to finish their chances.

Last time we spoke, you had mentioned Alejandro Pozuelo and his quick start to his MLS career, which ultimately landed him on the All-Star roster. He has one goal and 2 assists in his last 6 appearances - how does he kickstart things once more and rediscover that form he enjoyed to open the season?

MLS: Toronto FC at FC Dallas Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Most of Alejandro Pozuelo’s production has come with Jozy Altidore in front of him, so he may continue to struggle until the Gold Cup is over. His body language has been poor recently during this winless streak, something that is quite worrying to see. If he can stay positive and try to get the best out of the players around him, the goals and assists will hopefully come with it. A way to do that is to realize the abilities of the players around him. Terrence Boyd and Jordan Hamilton don’t play the same way that Jozy does, so as the “quarterback” of the attack, Pozuelo needs to adjust his game a bit to suit the players around him, not the opposite.

I have to imagine the panic button isn’t being pushed yet, but TFC have four teams within three points of it in the standings. With several of those teams having played one or two fewer matches, how could Wednesday’s match and the matches following (at D.C. United on Saturday, L.A. Galaxy on July 4, home against Montreal and the Red Bulls on July 13th and 17th) set the tone for TFC’s season?

Some Toronto FC fans have been pushing the panic button for weeks now, but I don’t think the club itself has reached that point yet. This stretch of games is crucial for Toronto FC, and might just be the difference between them making the playoffs or not. They have a lot of tough games over this stretch, so points might be hard to come by, but there’s no reason (at least on paper) why they shouldn’t pick up a few positive results. If they can finally break this winless streak, and get some of their key players back, they might be able to turn this season around and start climbing the table a bit.