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Toronto FC Interim coach Javier Perez expects a response from his team Saturday against New York City FC in the wake of a poor performance in a 3-0 mid-week loss at Philadelphia.

Toronto (3-9-5) saw its five-game unbeaten run (2-0-3) under Perez snapped at Subaru Park. Philadelphia took advantage of TFC’s flat start to score three goals in the first 36 minutes while restricting Toronto to just one shot on target in 90 minutes.

“We play at home, we need to bounce back,” Perez said. “We know that’s a must.”

Both teams are playing their third game in a week. It’s been a challenging run for 13th-placed TFC, which tied fourth-place Nashville 1-1 last Sunday before losing to third-place Philadelphia. NYCFC (8-5-3) stands fifth in the East, 13 points ahead of Toronto.

“We know this game means a lot,” added midfielder Jonathan Osorio. “It means a lot more for us, I think, at this point.”

“Everybody is motivated to change what’s happening,” he added. “We look around the room and we see the players, we see the quality. We know we have to be better.”

TFC needs to shore up a league-worst defence that has conceded 36 goals – and given up three goals five times this season, tied with FC Cincinnati for most in MLS this year. Toronto is conceding 2.12 goals a game on average, compared to just 1.00 for NYCFC.

Sixteen of those goals yielded by TFC have come in the first half, including a league-worst nine in the first 15 minutes.

The New Yorkers, meanwhile, have scored four or more goals in a match three times this season, including twice in the last three games. NYCFC arrives with the league’s second-best offence, averaging 1.88 goals a game.

The goals tend to come at home, however. NYCFC has 22 goals in nine home fixtures and just eight in seven away games.

A scoreless draw mid-week at Chicago ended a run of three straight wins, all at home, that saw NYCFC outscore the opposition 10-1.

“It’s a different ball game when you go away,” NYCFC coach Ronny Deila said. “So you have to take chances more if you’re going to get points.”

The two teams tied 1-1 May 15 at Yankee Stadium with substitute Jacob Shaffelburg scoring his first MLS goal to secure Toronto a controversial point. Controversial because NYCFC believed the 74th-minute tying goal should have been called back for a Dom Dwyer foul on defender James Sands.

“I think we controlled it for 90 minutes. But then, of course, we got robbed by the ref, that’s for sure,” Deila said after the game. “I can’t understand it.”

NYCFC outshot Toronto 13-7 (6-3 in shots on target) and had 58.8 per cent of possession in that game.

That May tie was followed by six straight TFC losses, prompting the firing of Chris Armas and elevation of Perez from assistant coach to interim head coach.

Deila expects a different challenge Saturday.

“First of all it’s going to a totally different game because we’re playing away instead of playing at home. And Toronto is always tough to beat at home,” he said.

He wants his team to be “very compact and solid defensively because they have players up front that can hurt us.

“At the same time if we do that well, we know that we will have opportunities to break on them and cause them problems. And on the ball we need to move it quick. We need to switch play and break lines when we have the opportunity to do that.”

Perez said reigning league MVP Alejandro Pozuelo is day-to-day. The Spanish playmaker has missed the past two games with a lower body injury, with Toronto scoring just one goal in his absence.

Pozuelo, who started in all 23 regular-season games in 2020, has appeared in just eight of Toronto’s 17 league outings this season.

Dwyer, fullback/wingback Richie Laryea and Brazilian fullback Auro are also listed as day-to-day.

NYCFC is without Brazilian forwards Heber and Talles Magno, both dealing with knee issues.

Deila sees TFC under Perez as being closer to the 2020 team under Greg Vanney rather than the high-pressing outfit that Armas looked to build.

“So that’s why maybe they are maybe improving because you can see they recognize situations in a different way, than they did before [under Armas] and they feel safe in their roles,” said Deila, a native of Norway.

NYCFC will be without midfielder Keaton Parks, sent off in the game in Chicago.

On Friday, the New Yorkers traded defender Sebastien Ibeagha to Los Angeles FC for US$150,000 in general allocation money with an additional US$50,000 in GAM if certain incentives are met.

NYCFC hosts Mexico’s Pumas next Wednesday in the quarter-finals of the Leagues Cup, which features four teams from MLS and four from Liga MX. Toronto welcomes league-leading New England to BMO Field on Aug. 14,