Published: September 29, 2:43 a.m. ET
Updated: September 29, 11:22 a.m. ET
Another difficult season will soon come to a close for the Reds, as will life under interim head coach Terry Dunfield.
Winless in all but one of his 12 games in charge since taking over for Bob Bradley in June, Dunfield will hope to somehow inspire his squad in a tough matchup at home against league-leading FC Cincinnati on Saturday night before making way for John Herdman on the touchline.
After a surprising 3-1 win at BMO Field over Philadelphia Union before the international break earlier this month, it’s since been more of what fans have come to expect from TFC in 2023. The Reds have lost their last three matches, shipping nine goals and scoring just once during that time. With a home date against Luciano Acosta and FC Cincinnati looming, it’s difficult to envision things changing for the better in the TFC camp this weekend.
Toronto and Cincinnati are currently polar opposites in the MLS standings. A Cincy win in Toronto would take Pat Noonan’s side to 65 points and would leave them one shy of having triple the total points of TFC, who have so far collected just 22 points through 30 games.
To date, 2012 was the worst season in franchise history for the Reds in a 34-game season. They collected 23 points that year and need just one more to avoid matching that tally. In contrast, Cincinnati can write their own history if they are able to round out the season with their foot firmly on the gas. The single-season points record of 73 remains within reach if they are able to win their four remaining fixtures, starting with Toronto FC.
Hoping to spoil the party on Saturday will be a TFC side coming off a week’s rest after falling short of the mark in their last outing. Lorenzo Insigne was not part of the TFC team that was pulled apart by NYCFC on Sunday, and his status for the next contest remains in doubt. TFC Republic’s John Molinaro reported that the Italian winger was not in training on Thursday, although he was back in individual training on Friday.
Striker C.J. Sapong was the beneficiary of Insigne’s absence as he started up top alongside the in-form Deandre Kerr in the losing effort. Sapong may get the nod again from Dunfield, unless the club wants to hand some starts to younger players, with the playoffs now officially out of reach. The likes of Themi Antonoglou, Jahkeele Marhsall-Rutty, and Hugo Mbongue could see an uptick in playing time down the stretch if Dunfield, and then Herdman, opt to go in such a direction.
Midfielder Brandon Servania was another missing link in the NYCFC loss, with club captain Michael Bradley returning to his usual midfield role after deputizing at centre-half since returning from injury. It was Shane O’Neill who replaced Bradley in the backline, but not to good effect. O’Neill and Sigurd Rosted were left exposed against Talles Magno and Co. With no real answer at centre-back, it looks as though the position will once again have to be addressed in the offseason.
Between the sticks, Luka Gavran got his first MLS appearance last weekend and was one of the lone positives from a TFC perspective. The Hamilton native denied Monsef Bakrar a goal from the penalty and had five saves on the day, keeping the match to a respectable scoreline when the margin of defeat could’ve been greater. After a noteworthy debut expect to see him hold down his spot over Tomás Romero.
TFC’s next opponent come into the match feeling good about themselves after a 3-0 victory over Charlotte FC secured Champions Cup soccer in Cincinnati for 2024. With a playoff spot clinched since August 30, Cincy are now aiming to lock down their Supporters’ Shield credentials. They can do so by winning at BMO Field, but can also guarantee their first piece of MLS silverware if they fail to get all three points but other results around the league go their way.
Cincinnati’s Argentine midfielder Luciano Acosta has been one of, if not the best player in MLS this season and the electrifying playmaker has a track record of lighting up TFC. Currently on 15 league goals and tied with Giorgos Giakoumakis and Hany Mukhtar atop the Golden Boot ladder, Acosta has produced a finish in each of the four past meetings between FCC and TFC, dating back to September 2021. The MVP contender will no doubt be looking to trouble an unsure Toronto defence.
After coming out on top in their first three encounters, TFC have recorded just one win against Cincinnati in the ensuing six battles and have lost the last three. Cincy eased by Toronto in the reverse fixture back in late June by a 3-0 scoreline and won 2-1 during their last trek up north to BMO Field.
Toronto FC: Gavran; Petretta, Mabika, Rosted, Franklin; Osorio, Bradley, Coello, Bernardeschi; Sapong, Kerr
FC Cincinnati: Celentano; Mosquera, Miazga, Hagglund, Barreal; Moreno, Nwobodo, Arias; Acosta; Vazquez, Santos
- Toronto FC have yet to draw with FC Cincinnati in nine previous meetings (4-5-0)
- Victor Vazquez is one appearance away from 75 with Toronto FC
Opponent: FC Cincinnati
Kickoff time: Saturday, September 30, 7:30 p.m. ET
Watch: TSN, Apple TV (free)
Stadium: BMO Field, Toronto, Ont.