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Toronto FC heads to Cincinnati to conclude four-game road trip

Following a two-week break, the Reds are back in MLS action.

SOCCER: AUG 27 MLS - Toronto FC at CF Montreal Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With the September international break done and dusted, Toronto FC’s six internationals have returned to the side ahead of a trip to FC Cincinnati, the final game of the Reds’ four-game road trip.

Three consecutive away defeats to Atlanta United, Inter Miami and CF Montreal have left TFC in dire need of a win that would see them swap places with Cincinnati, who currently sit two points clear of the Reds in 13th.

Kickoff for this one is set for 8:00 pm EST at the TQL Stadium, with the game available to watch on TSN.

These are trying times for Javier Perez and his men. One point from their last five league games has left TFC bottom of the Eastern Conference and 15 points behind the playoff spots. With 12 MLS matches left to play, the Reds will need to do a complete 180 if they are to make a miraculous postseason push.

In their last game, TFC fell to a 3-1 defeat in Montreal, the first 401 derby to take place on Canadian soil in almost a year. The Reds were reduced to 10 men after just five minutes, but Ifunanyachi Achara cancelled out Samuel Piette’s opener just before the hour mark. Yet, the host’s lead was re-established in the latter stages of the second half thanks to goals from Joaquin Torres and Romell Quioto.

Coming back to BMO Field with zero points from four road games will surely not be in Perez’s plans, but Cincinnati will also be on the hunt for a vital three points after a poor run of form dating back to early July.

Saturday’s hosts have not won a game since beating TFC on June 26th. Following that, Cincinnati has played 12, drawn seven and lost five. The Orange and Blue is also on a three game losing streak, making their upcoming clash with Toronto quite the six-pointer.

Brazilian forward Brenner is Cincinnati’s top scorer in MLS this season with five, while Luciano Acosta, who’s provided six assists so far this season, is his closest challenger on Cincinnati’s scoring chart with four.

For Toronto, Jonathan Osorio leads the way on the goalscoring front with four MLS goals in 13 games. Yeferson Soteldo is the Reds’ top assists provider with six, including the slick pass to set up Achara against Montreal two weeks ago.

Regarding team news, TFC will indeed have their six internationals (Richie Laryea, Jonathan Osorio, Eriq Zavaleta, Kemar Lawrence, Yeferson Soteldo and Chris Mavinga) available for selection. Soteldo played for Venezuela on September 9th in Paraguay, but Perez confirmed that the 24-year-old will link up with the team in Cincinnati.

Noble Okello is suspended following his red card against Montreal, while Ayo Akionla, Jozy Altidore and Ralph Priso are long-term absentees through injury.

This upcoming meeting will be the fifth time Toronto FC and FC Cincinnati clash since the latter joined MLS in 2019. Despite losing the last encounter 2-0, TFC won the previous three, most notably recording an emphatic 5-1 victory in September 2019 courtesy of goals from Nicolas Benezet, Michael Bradley, Mark Delgado, Nick DeLeon and Patrick Mullins.

DeLeon, Mullins and former Cincinnati winger Emmanuel Ledesma are the matchup’s all-time top scorers with two strikes each.

Ultimately, the Reds are playing for pride at this point, but with 12 MLS games left to play, as well as a Canadian Championship campaign to hopefully look forward to, TFC can still give their faithful fans some much needed joy for the remainder of the season.

Predicted Lineups:

FC Cincinnati: Vermeer; Hagglund, Cameron, Vallecilla; Harris, Cruz, Kubo, Mokotjo, Barreal; Acosta, Brenner

Toronto FC: Westberg; Laryea, Gonzalez, Mavinga, Lawrence; Bradley, Delgado; Osorio, Pozuelo, Soteldo; Achara