It's hard to imagine where Sporting Kansas City would be without Teal Bunbury's superb play through the first six months of the season.
The club could have a hard time maintaining its Eastern Conference lead down the stretch after losing its star forward.
In its first game since learning of Bunbury's season-ending knee injury, Sporting KC will look for others to step up Saturday night when it hosts league-worst Toronto FC.
With 47 points, Sporting KC (14-7-5) sits three behind league-leading San Jose and one in front of second-place New York in the East. Kansas City stayed ahead of the Red Bulls after the clubs played to a 1-all draw Sunday, but that result came at a steep cost for coach Peter Vermes' team.
Bunbury tore his left ACL and damaged his LCL while leaping to make a pass to Kei Kamara for Sporting KC's only goal Sunday. Bunbury fell to the ground holding his knee but went on to play several more minutes before coming out. His injury was initially thought to be a sprain.
"All the support has really been keeping my spirits up. It's nothing I can get down about," Bunbury told Sporting KC's official website. "It's not going to help my knee heal faster. So I'm already over that. I'm just looking forward to next season and watching these guys win the Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup this season."
Sporting KC, 3-0-1 over its last four league games, may have a hard time replacing Bunbury. The former fourth overall draft pick has five goals in MLS play - tied for second on the team behind Kamara's 10 - and his 50 shots rank third on the club.
"It's a tough break," Vermes said. "He put a lot of time and energy into getting into the form that he was in. But that's part of the business that we're in. You work so hard to get to a certain point, and then something happens to where you're out for a good period of time. He's had a huge impact on the team that we've grown into, and I have a lot of confidence in our medical staff that he's going to come back better and stronger than he was before."
Sporting KC went 6-1-0 over its first seven MLS home games but has since been outscored 5-4 during a 1-2-3 stretch on its own field. What appears to be a favorable matchup versus Toronto FC (5-15-6), though, could give the home fans plenty to cheer for.
Kansas City prevailed 1-0 at Toronto on Aug. 18, improving to 4-0-2 over the last six in the series. Sporting KC has outscored Toronto 8-2 while recording five clean sheets during that run.
Toronto FC, 0-4-2 in its last six games overall, is coming off Tuesday's 3-1 loss to Santos Laguna in the CONCACAF Champions League.
In its most recent league match, Toronto FC played to a 1-all draw at Houston last Saturday. Terry Dunfield headed in the game-tying goal in the 85th minute on a terrific pass from Darren O'Dea.
"I thought we played very well," O'Dea told Toronto FC's official website. "I think we could have won in the end, but we definitely improved our performance and now hopefully the results will come and if we keep playing hard we will win more than we lose."