TORONTO, Ont. - A busy stretch in the back end of July earned the Reds a well deserved break.The Reds will now kick-off August looking for their first ever win against Nashville SC. Kick-off is scheduled for 7:30 PM EST and can be watched on TSN.
Toronto will be coming into this game with a lot of confidence as the Reds picked up their second win in their last four matches. Since taking over from former head coach, Chris Armas, Interim Head Coach Javier Perez has been able to steady the ship and TFC have picked up two wins and two draws in four matches, collecting more points in this stretch alone under Perez than they did in 11 matches under Armas.
With the Concacaf Gold Cup winding down, Perez will have some reinforcements on their way back. While Kemar Lawrence will likely be back in contention for a starting role, following Jamaica’s elimination at the Gold Cup, the Reds may still want to wait on the Canadians away on international duty. With Thursday’s heartbreaking loss for the Canadians, Jonathan Osorio and Richie Laryea will be back with the squad but Perez will all but likely choose to give the Canadian internationals some much needed rest after logging heavy minutes right up to the semi-finals.
This is also the first time this season that the Reds are not missing any players through injury. Ifunaychi Achara who has been out since last season, has rejoined the squad and is in full training. Perez is keen on using the Nigerian striker, but speaking pre-match suggested he may get some minutes with TFC II before returning to first team action.
Perez says that it's possible that Achara, who has been training with the first-team for weeks, just needs playing time now, and may get some playing time with Toronto FC II, but 'ideally' he returns to the first team.— Michael Singh (@MichaelSingh94) July 30, 2021
Nashville SC will be equally confident heading into their matchup with Toronto. The Tennessee club sit in second place in the Eastern Conference and currently are on a seven game unbeaten run, with their last loss coming against the New York Red Bulls on June 18th. In their most recent match, Nashville walked away with all three points thanks to a 3-0 win over FC Cincinnati.
Through 15 games this season, Nashville have six wins, and a joint league-high eight draws (Houston and Atlanta are the other two clubs that have eight draws). Nashville opened their season with three consecutive draws, and four in their first five matches. While the draws may have been frustrating in the early part of the season, it has certainly set a good foundation for the club midway through the season.
The club has made a stark improvement to the offensive side of their game in 2021. Through 15 games, Nashville has scored 24 goals this season, matching their goal scoring record for the entirety of last season. Leading the way for Nashville’s offence has been midfielder Hany Mukhtar who leads the club with seven goals, and striker C.J. Sapong who has five goals and three assists this season.
Toronto’s offence will have to be clicking right from the start if they want to get past the Nashville defence. To go along with their new found offense, Nashville have also shown that they can defend just as well, conceding 14 times in 15 games, the third best goals against record in the league, behind Columbus and Seattle. Nashville ‘keeper Joe Willis, who has started all 15 games for his club, has been a strong part of this as the American has picked up a league best seven clean sheets this season.
Nashville will be without defender Walker Zimmerman, who picked up an injury while on international duty while with the USA at the Gold Cup. The American international had appeared in 10 matches for Nashville before departing for international duty. Panamanian international Anibal Godoy who suffered a hamstring injury prior to the start of the Gold Cup, will be a game time decision according to Nashville Head Coach, Gary Smith.
While not injured, Gary Smith will likely not be able to rely on Canadian defender, Allistair Johnston. Johnston appeared in all five Canadian matches and went the distance in four of the five matches at the Gold Cup, and will likely not feature for Nashville. Johnston had appeared in 11 matches prior to being called up to the Canadian camp.
These two clubs don’t have a lot of history playing each other, matching up on just two occasions, but Nashville has been able to pick up wins in both matchups. In their very first matchup, Nashville were 1-0 victors in the MLS Playoffs, and in their most recent matchup on June 23rd, the Tennessee club picked up all three points, which started their current seven game unbeaten run.
On that night, the Reds held the lead twice, including through a 81st minute Noble Okello strike, but two goals by substitute Luke Haakenson seven minutes apart, in the 83rd minute and in injury time gave Nashville all three points. As has been well discussed, this Reds team has looked markedly different than the team that took the field in Nashville.
The Reds have been able to slowly turn things around in July, and with three months left in the regular season, Javier Perez and his squad will know the importance this month brings if they want any shot at the 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs.
Opponent: Nashville SC
Kick-off time: 7:30 PM EST
Stadium: BMO Field, Toronto, ON
Watch: TSN1, TSN4