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Revolution-Toronto FC Preview

After a nightmare 2018 season, things are looking up again for Toronto FC.

Energized by a massive opening win, a week off and the addition of a potential game-changing player, the Reds enter Sunday night's home opener against the New England Revolution with renewed optimism.

It's still a mystery how Toronto finished 14 points out of a playoff spot with largely the same cast that dominated the league en route to winning the 2017 MLS Cup, but a gritty 3-1 victory at Philadelphia on March 2 was evidence it's determined to atone for last year's failure. In the Reds' first MLS match since the offseason departure of club career scoring leader Sebastian Giovinco, captain Michael Bradley stepped up with a rare brace and defender Laurent Ciman came up with a critical goal-line save late in the second half to preserve what was then a one-goal advantage.

"It's an important win for sure - three big points to start the season off - we feel good about it," said Bradley, who registered his first two-goal game in MLS and first since he was a 21-year-old with Borussia Monchengladbach in the Bundesliga in 2009. "We wanted to start in a positive way. We've talked a few times in the last few weeks about feeling like we let ourselves down in (the CONCACAF Champions League) from an intensity standpoint, being ready to play a real hard game."

Toronto may have to lean on Bradley for more offense until Jozy Altidore gets fully back from offseason ankle surgery and new designated player Alejandro Pozuelo joins the club, likely next week. The Spanish midfielder, a standout for current Belgian First Division leader Genk, was signed on March 4 to fill the Reds' need for a creative playmaker following Giovinco's transfer to the Saudi League.

"He was the best player on the best club in Belgium," Toronto general manager Ali Curtis said of Pozuelo, who also owns previous experience in both the Premier League and La Liga.

Altidore, who's scored 52 goals counting the postseason during his four-year stint in Toronto, has resumed training and is a possibility to return in some role for Sunday's match.

While Toronto made the most of its chances against the Union, New England (0-1-1) may still be lamenting a missed opportunity in last weekend's 2-0 loss at Columbus. The Revs trailed 1-0 when Wilfried Zahibo drew a penalty kick in the 59th minute, but Crew goalkeeper Zack Steffen stoned Diego Fagundez's attempt and Columbus ultimately put the game away in injury time.

"Absolutely gutted, to be honest," Revolution captain Michael Mancienne said. "I feel like their chances came from nothing, really. We dominated. We had chances that we obviously should have done better with, and that changes games."

New England did rally for a 1-1 draw on the road against FC Dallas in the March 2 opener, but hasn't had much recent success in Toronto. The Revs have been outscored 10-2 while losing three straight at BMO Field, most recently a 4-1 defeat in September.

Cristian Penilla had the lone Revolution goal in that meeting and scored twice in New England's 3-2 home win over the Reds on May 12.

Updated March 15, 2019

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