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Preview: Toronto FC looking to find a way back into the win column against Nashville

The Reds visit Tennessee hoping to pick up points for the first time in three matches

MLS: Orlando City SC at Toronto FC
After another loss, TFC are still looking for win number two in 2021.
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

TORONTO, Ont. - Toronto FC failed to pick up a win after the international break on the weekend, and are still searching for their second win of the season through eight matches. The Reds will get their next chance on Wednesday night when they travel to Tennessee to take on Nashville SC.

Kick off is scheduled for 8:30 PM EST and can be watched on TSN.

Last weekend’s result was not what the Reds were looking for, but there were some positives that did come out of it, including a healthy Alejandro Pozuelo. The Spaniard’s inclusion in the starting line up helped the offence become dangerous once again, with Pozuelo linking up with striker Ayo Akinola and midfielder Jonathan Osorio to score the club’s two goals. The 2020 MLS MVP may have had a goal of his own as well were it not for hitting the post.

The match up with Orlando, however, also showed that the international break wasn’t long enough to work on the part of TFC’s game that has hurt them the most - their defence. The Reds were once again chasing the game inside 10 minutes after going down 2-0 on Saturday. Goalkeeper Quentin Westberg who made his first season debut was at fault for Orlando’s second goal, and the discussion for who should be the Reds starter will become a point of contention once again.

In Westberg’s defence, it is a tough ask to have a goalie come in for his game of the season and look sharp right off the bat. His early mistake won’t have helped his confidence either. While fellow ‘keeper Alex Bono has been far from perfect either, it will be telling to see who Armas turns to for Wednesday night’s match up.

The Reds are scheduled to play on Wednesday night in Nashville, and ‘host’ Cincinnati on Saturday night. While on most occasions it would be easy to look at games ahead and try and rotate the squad, Armas doesn’t have that flexibility any more.

Speaking to the media ahead of Wednesday night’s matchup, veteran defender Omar Gonzalez was adamant that the squad is looking at their matchup with Nashville as a “championship game”. At this point that can be the only attitude that the Reds have and Armas will need to put out his strongest possible lineup. The Reds came away from the weekend without adding any new injuries, so the TFC head coach won’t have any new headaches while selecting his team on Wednesday.

This is Toronto’s first matchup against Nashville in the regular season. The clubs have however met once, when they faced off in the 2020 MLS Playoffs, last season. On that occasion, the MLS newcomers were victorious in extra-time, knocking TFC out of the playoffs.

Nashville comes into this game having their unbeaten start to the season come to an end on the weekend as they fell 2-0 to the New York Red Bulls on the road. Nashville currently sports a 2-1-5 record and sit in 10th in the Eastern Conference. Last year’s MLS newcomers have shown that they can grind out matches having conceded just eight times through eight games, which included four consecutive clean sheets in the month of May.

The Tennessee club however has struggled to score goals this season, having scored just nine times in eight matches, with Hany Mukhtar leading the way with three goals so far. With Toronto’s defence being as porous as it has been so far this season, Mukhtar and the rest of the Nashville team will surely look at this as an opportunity to add to their season tally. Even going back to the playoff game, Nashville SC found plenty of opportunities to score that night in November, only to have been ruled offside on multiple occasions.

Nashville will be without the services of Jhonder Cadiz who is away with the Venezuelan National Team but Nashville head coach Gary Smith will be able to call upon MLS veteran C.J. Sapong, who joined the club in the off-season and has started in four of the last five matches.

Toronto has struggled mightily on the road this year, with a 0-4-1 record so far. It will take a complete team effort for the Reds to get past a Nashville squad who is unbeaten at home and haven’t conceded a goal at Nissan Stadium since April 24th. While the Reds will have increased confidence in their offence, the defensive side of their game cannot continue to be a liability if TFC want to pick up any points on Wednesday night.

With every passing match, the playoffs get further and further away. The Reds mentality of a championship game will be needed to make sure the MLS playoffs doesn’t seem like a pipe dream after only 10 games in 2021. A matchup with Nashville is yet another opportunity to start to turn this season around.

Game Notes:
Opponent: Nashville SC
Location: Nissan Stadium
Kick-off: 8:30 PM EST
Watch: TSN