After a scoreless draw at home against the lowly New York Red Bulls on Wednesday, Toronto FC will hit the road to face Austin FC, in the first-ever competitive meeting between the two sides, in hopes of finding a result that can change the course of a desperately poor start to the season.

Making do with an injury ravaged squad in the last matchup, TFC head coach Bob Bradley will hope to have a couple of first-team players back and available for selection after experiencing two more setbacks midweek. Mark-Anthony Kaye was deemed unfit to start Wednesday’s match against RBNY, and midfielder Deandre Kerr was pulled from the contest in the first half.

TFC insider Michael Singh reports that Kaye and veteran defender Matt Hedges are in the running to return to the pitch in the Lone Star State, while forward Jordan Perruzza has also been deemed questionable to participate.

Hedges could prove to be an important reinstatement with Bradley left with only one fit natural centre-back in the form of Aimé Mabika. Though he and Richie Laryea performed well in the heart of defence last time out, the return of Hedges would allow for greater use of Laryea’s prowess as a goal threat down the right flank.

With the halfway point of the MLS regular season just over two weeks away — yes, really — TFC will need to put points on the board no matter the injury situation. Looking past injuries, the team has struggled to find consistent goalscoring, and the form of Italian wingers Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi has not matched expectations with the two stars in their first full MLS season.

“As a team I think we create a fair number of advantages, I said that after many games so far this year,” Bradley said following the 0-0 result against the Red Bulls.

“How sharp are we when we get those advantages, I think that has to improve. I think in some moments that includes them (Insigne and Bernardeschi).”

Bradley might need to rethink his team’s approach to avoid another lost season in Toronto. For a side that averages the ninth-highest possession in the league (50.6 percent), only two clubs average fewer shots taken per game (10). Something must change in order to make the Reds a more threatening attacking unit, especially given the profiles Bradley has at his disposal.

The good news for Toronto fans? New York City FC are only three points away in ninth place. It wouldn’t take much to vault back into playoff contention, but the product on the pitch mixed with the lack of scoring touch is making a frustrated fanbase lose faith that their team can have a sudden change in form.

Playing host to TFC on Saturday will be Austin, another side that has so far failed to meet expectations in 2023.

After a stellar sophomore season in which they finished second in the West, the Verde and Black are currently one point out of the playoff picture and endured an eight-match winless run before beating the Seattle Sounders away in their most recent outing.

2022 MLS All-Star Sebastián Driussi will miss Saturday’s game as he deals with a groin injury, while young midfielder Owen Wolff is with the United States under-20 team at the World Cup in Argentina. Other than those two absences, Austin are very healthy when compared to their Toronto counterpart.

Like TFC though, Austin have struggled to find the back of the net. The club has scored a dozen times in as many league matches, with wing-back Jon Gallagher leading the team in scoring with four goals.

Predicted Lineups

Austin FC: Stuver; Radovanović, Väisänen, Ring; Lundqvist, Pereira, Valencia, Gallagher; Rigoni, Zardes, Finlay

Toronto FC: Johnson; Petretta, Mabika, Hedges, Laryea; Kaye, Servania, Thompson; Insigne, Sapong, Bernardeschi

Game Notes

  • Toronto FC have won just one MLS regular-season match in Texas, beating Houston Dynamo 2-1 in 2010 (1-12-9)
  • Toronto FC have scored just one goal in their last four matches in all competitions

Match Details

Opponent: Austin FC

Kickoff time: 8:30 pm ET

Watch: MLS Season Pass

Stadium: Q2 Stadium, Austin, Tex.