Following Toronto FC’s win last weekend, captain Michael Bradley made a rather bold statement.
“We feel like we have the best team in the league,” he said, adding that he didn’t mean just the starting 11, but all the way down Toronto’s deep roster.
So let’s look at the facts: The busy Reds are riding a five-match winning streak after Wednesday night’s 2-1 victory over Columbus. It is the longest winning streak in club history.
They had previously downed the Seattle Sounders, the team that bested them in the MLS Cup final last season on penalties after a scoreless draw. Jozy Altidore, who leads the Reds with six goals this season, scored on a penalty kick in the 23rd minute for the 1-0 win Saturday at CenturyLink Field.
It followed a 2-1 victory over Orlando City last week. Sebastian Giovinco had both goals in that win then sat out of the road trip against the Sounders. Attacking midfielder Victor Vazquez, who leads the team with six assists, and defenders Steven Beitashour and Eriq Zavaleta also stayed home from Seattle.
It was thought that the hectic schedule could catch up with TFC against the Crew, but Tosaint Ricketts scored a pair of late goals for the three points on the road.
The Reds went 1-4-1 through their first six games before the winning streak. The Reds’ lone loss came against Columbus, an emotional game because Toronto coach Greg Vanney was grieving the death of his mother and defender Drew Moor was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat during training.
“We knew we were inches away at the start of the season just missing opportunities to get results,” Vanney said. “We came away with a lot of draws in that stretch, but we knew we were close.”
Toronto hosts Minnesota this weekend to cap a rather busy spell. And there’s some good news for the Reds: Moor has returned to training after undergoing a procedure in Boston.
“Two weeks ago, a lot of people were concerned because we weren’t necessarily turning some of those games into wins. But we knew we were close and it was a matter of working through a few things in getting the season started,” Vanney said. “How quickly the feeling can change when you have a couple weeks where you put together a set of wins.”
GAME OF THE WEEK: While Toronto sits atop the East, FC Dallas is undefeated at 5-0-3 and sitting atop the Western Conference. There are no other undefeated teams left.
So can they keep the streak alive? Last season’s Supporters’ Shield winners visit New York City FC for a nationally televised match Sunday. NYCFC is in third place in the East at 5-3-1 and paced by David Villa with six goals.
Maximiliano Urruti has six goals for Dallas.
BEST OF THE REST: The Red Bulls have a 19-game undefeated streak at home that dates back to April 2016. They’ve also allowed just one goal at home this season.
The LA Galaxy have a chance to end the lengthy streak Sunday. But the Galaxy are struggling with a four-game winless streak.
“We have to work hard, we have to start moving up the table and getting three points. What a way to hopefully start it against New York, right? It’s going to be difficult, but we have to have this mentality, never give up and work hard for each other,” forward Gyasi Zardes said.
The Galaxy were stung Monday when they learned they’d be without Jermaine Jones for three to four weeks with a sprained right knee.
HONORS: Philadelphia forward CJ Sapong was named Player of the Week after scoring all three goals in the Union’s 3-0 victory over the Red Bulls last Saturday. It was his first career hat trick.
Sapong leads the league with seven goals this season. But for him, the win was more important than the goals. It was the Union’s first victory of the season.
ON THE MOVE: There will be 12 MLS-affiliated players on rosters at the Under-20 World Cup in South Korea later this month. U.S. coach Tab Ramos named nine current MLS players and one academy player to his roster. Two other MLS players will represent other countries.
THE LAST WORD: Brek Shea scored his first MLS goal with the Whitecaps since he was traded to the team in February, striking the game-winner in a 1-0 victory at Colorado last Friday. It was a stunner, too, going right between Rapids goalkeeper Tim Howard’s legs on a breakaway in the 84th minute.
Shea, who has also played on the U.S. national team, missed the previous five games because of a knee sprain. He was injured early last month during a CONCACAF Champions League match.
Shea had entered the game against the Rapids in the 69th minute — showing how the 27-year-old can quickly change the dynamics of a match.
“I’ve got confidence in him, he’s a super talent, still young and has a lot of football ahead of him,” Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson said.