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Preview: Toronto FC heads to South Beach to take on Inter Miami

The Reds have recorded just two points from their last five games.

SOCCER: AUG 18 MLS - Toronto FC at Atlanta United FC Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

For the second stop of their four-game road trip, Toronto FC heads to the Sunshine State to take on Inter Miami, who sit four points clear of the Reds in the Eastern Conference.

With just two wins from their last nine games, TFC sit bottom of the East and currently have the worst points tally of all 27 MLS sides. A late playoff push is still in the minds of the players, but the results will have to come sooner rather than later.

August has arguably been Miami’s best month so far this season as Phil Neville’s men have picked up seven points from their last four. A dramatic 93rd minute winner from Rodolfo Pizarro sealed a 3-2 win against the Philadelphia Union in the Herons’ last outing.

Saturday’s kickoff is set for 8:00 pm EST at the DRV PNK Stadium, with the game available to watch live on TSN.

A disappointing 1-0 defeat to Atlanta United in midweek was the latest low in what has been a rollercoaster of a season for TFC. The Reds are now 12 points behind the top seven and with 14 regular season games left to play in 2021, Javier Perez’s men essentially have 14 cup-finals before the postseason begins on November 19th.

Toronto has also played two games more than FC Cincinnati and Miami, who are the two teams above the Reds in the Eastern Conference standings. Moreover, TFC cannot afford to drop more points against their closest rivals ahead of the campaign’s business end.

In addition to their poor league form, Toronto has also been rocked by a growing injury list. Ralph Priso and Jozy Altidore have joined Ayo Akinola on the sidelines as long-term absentees. Priso has been ruled out for the rest of the campaign, while Altidore’s expected recovery time following a foot surgery is six weeks.

Tsubasa Endoh will also not be available on Saturday, while Dom Dwyer is questionable. With regards to Chris Mavinga, who has been dealing with a family matter over the last week, Perez confirmed the DRC international will not be available for selection.

Miami will be without Ryan Shawcross, Ventura Alvarado, Ian Fray and Joevin Jones through injury.

Having only scored three goals in their last four games, TFC is averaging just over a goal a game so far this season. Jonathan Osorio leads Toronto on the scoring front in MLS (4) and in all competitions (5), with Akinola sitting behind him in second on three league goals.

As for Saturday’s hosts, Gonzalo Higuaín has scored almost 50% of Miami’s MLS goals so far this year. The Argentine has bagged eight strikes and provided four assists in 17 league appearances.

This weekend’s matchup will be just the second meeting in history between the two sides and the first meeting at either team’s home ground. Toronto faced Miami last season at the Pratt & Whitney Stadium in Connecticut, with a late penalty from Alejandro Pozuelo sealing a 2-1 win for the Reds.

There is still lots of ground to be made up if TFC are to move off the bottom of the table and into the top seven, and with an opportunity to close the gap on one of the sides closest to them, three points should be the only thing on the minds of the Reds.

Ultimately, both teams have a major point to prove on Saturday, so will TFC begin their resurgence in form? Or will Miami record their third win in five to further bolster their playoff hopes?

Predicted Lineups:

Inter Miami: Marsman; Pirez, Figal, Makoun; Morgan, Gregore, Matuidi, Gibbs; Vassilev, Higuaín, Robinson

Toronto FC: Bono; Laryea, Gonzalez, Zavaleta, Lawrence; Bradley, Delgado; Osorio, Pozuelo, Soteldo; Achara