Following the disappointing defeat to Nashville SC on Wednesday night, Toronto FC are back at the Exploria Stadium to take on FC Cincinnati in their 10th game of the 2021 MLS season.
The defeat meant Toronto dropped to 13th in the Eastern Conference standings after Cincinnati were able to win 1-0 over the East’s bottom side, the Chicago Fire.
The Reds have now tallied just five points from a possible 27 and are eight points behind the playoff spots.
Despite a bright first half against Nashville, TFC capitulated in the latter stages of the game and ultimately returned to camp in Florida without even a point. That stretched Toronto’s winless run to five, with Armas’ men having only recorded just one point since their only MLS win of the season against the Columbus Crew back in early May.
Cincinnati have now won two of their last four and have slowly shown signs of improvement after recording just one point from their opening four games. A victory for the visitors on Saturday will see them move five points clear of Toronto, a scenario which could also see the Reds fall to the bottom of the table if Chicago triumph against the Philadelphia Union.
In terms of team news, Jonathan Osorio will be available after the midfield was subbed off against Nashville due to hamstring tightness. Despite that bit of good news, Alejandro Pozuelo’s status for the game is up in the air. The Spaniard was also substituted because of a tight hamstring and Armas has said that he is waiting additional updates regarding the reigning MLS MVP’s availability.
“We will be smart (about) how we use him this weekend, if at all. We just got to see because we can’t afford to lose him for (an) extended time,” said Armas in his pre-match press conference.
The squad will also be bolstered by the addition of Ralph Priso, who has been included in the game day roster after having gone on loan to TFC II.
Ifunanyachi Achara and Julian Dunn are still long-term absentees, while Yeferson Soteldo is also not available for selection after he joined up with his Venezuelan compatriots for the Copa America in Brazil.
Quentin Westberg is expected to keep his place in net after an inspiring performance against Nashville in spite of the loss.
Since their first MLS season in 2019, Cincinnati has played Toronto three times and has lost each of the three encounters. Their most recent meeting came in October 2020, where a lone goal from Patrick Mullins was enough to seal a 1-0 win for the Reds.
Between those previous three meetings, Mullins and Nick DeLeon are the two top scoring TFC players with two goals each. Emmanuel Ledesma, who is no longer with Cincinnati, is the only one of their players to have scored against Toronto.
On the goalscoring front, Osorio’s strike on Wednesday was his third in MLS and fourth in all competitions this season. As for Cincinnati, Álvaro Barreal is their top scorer with two goals, one of which was the winner against Chicago on Wednesday.
Defensively, Toronto and Cincinnati have the two worst goals conceded records in the East. The Reds have already let in 18 goals in nine games, including six in their last two. Cincinnati, who have conceded one less than TFC, are also the second lowest-scoring team in their conference after only bagging just seven in their opening eight league matches this year.
While Cincinnati will be looking to grab their third win in five, Armas’ men will also have nothing but victory on their minds in order to put their lacklustre start to the campaign behind them.
As the pressure continues to mount for TFC, the points need to come sooner rather than later if an inspiring playoff push is indeed on the cards.