BARCELONA – The New York Red Bulls put a major controversy behind them to earn a crucial victory in their last match.
Mexican defender Rafa Marquez is expected to return from a team suspension Saturday night when the Red Bulls travel to face Toronto FC.
New York (8-7-15) played without Marquez in last Saturday's 2-0 home win over Portland. He was suspended for the game by coach Hans Backe for criticizing his teammates after last Wednesday's loss to Real Salt Lake.
Marquez has since apologized to the team, and he'll be available Saturday.
"It was misinterpreted," he told the Red Bulls' official website. "It wasn't my intention. I spoke to my teammates to apologize that it wasn't my intention to make these remarks. But as usual, they're misinterpreted, and people aim to damage people and myself.
"And I'm not like this. I'm not the type of person who goes on or puts blame on others for bad results. It's a team and we all lose together and win together."
The Red Bulls are holding on to the fourth and final wild-card playoff spot in the crowded race.
"Every game is like a cup final for us now," Backe said.
Thierry Henry is tied for second in MLS with 12 goals, and he opened the scoring in a 5-0 home rout of Toronto (6-13-12) on July 6. New York has outscored Toronto 14-1 in a four-game win streak in the series, with Backe in charge of the last three.
Juan Agudelo scored twice in the July meeting, and Joel Lindpere added a goal and two assists. The Red Bulls, however, do not expect the rematch north of the border to be as easy.
"For us it's all about knowing that we're going into a really tough place to play," midfielder Dax McCarty said. "We're playing against a team that's much improved from when we played them last time."
Toronto owns the league's worst goal differential at minus-23, but the club has been competitive lately. It won two straight in MLS play before last Saturday's 3-0 defeat at Chivas USA.
The effort was much better Tuesday in a 1-1 home draw with Mexican club Pumas in a CONCACAF Champions League game that boosted Toronto's chances of advancing to the next round.
"The way I want to play football, I think that we are making huge improvement," coach Aron Winter said. "And you can see it every game, even when we have lost Saturday against Chivas, even then you can see that we are doing it well."
German captain Torsten Frings should start Saturday after he was suspended for the Pumas match.
Winter will decide on how his players have physically recovered to determine the rest of his lineup.
"The biggest problem is this short time that you have," Winter said. "You can't practice everything. For us, for me, it's important to keep the ball to play possession, and that's the thing we're practicing also."
Red Bulls defender Roy Miller has missed the last four matches with a hamstring injury but has returned to training this week and could start.