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Preview: Toronto FC hosts FC Cincinnati in first of back-to-back meetings

TFC return home after a chaotic loss in New York.

MLS: FC Cincinnati at Toronto FC
Jacob Shaffelburg of Toronto FC scores an equalizing goal at BMO Field in a 3-2 win over FC Cincinnati during the last meeting between the clubs.
Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto FC face off with FC Cincinnati at BMO Field on Saturday afternoon.

The Reds head into the contest coming off the back of a turbulent 5-4 loss in Queens against New York City FC.

That last match could be viewed as a sort of microcosm for the Reds’ up-and-down season so far.

After a four-match unbeaten streak, Toronto FC (3-2-3) were taken down by the reigning MLS champs despite going up two goals to nil in the first half hour of the game.

Head Coach Bob Bradley commended the resiliency his group displayed despite the loss.

“I’m really proud of the way the team fought back,” said the boss postgame. “I want the guys to feel good about that.”

Though there are some positives to take away from last Saturday’s match, TFC continue to struggle with keeping the ball out of their own net. The Reds have yet to keep a clean sheet this season.

Only San Jose (20) has conceded more goals than Toronto’s 17.

“For me it’s still about improving from game to game,” head coach Bradley has stated.

MLS: Toronto FC at New York City FC
Deandre Kerr heads the ball in Toronto FC’s last match, a 5-4 loss to New York City FC.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

In spite of the leaky defence, Toronto FC sit fifth in the Eastern Conference heading into their match against Cincinnati.

This is largely due in part to the side’s ability to score goals, especially through the league’s potential signing of the season, Jesus Jimenez. The Spaniard is now on six goals in eight matches, with three goals in his last two games. His ability to act as a reference point for the midfield and wingbacks has made TFC a very interesting attacking outfit. Jimenez will be vital on Saturday as TFC look to win their fourth match in a row at home.

With Ayo Akinola back from his ACL injury, Toronto now have two very capable strikers within their ranks. The Canadian international watched from the bench last time out against NYCFC. He will make his first TFC appearance since July 8, 2021 if he gets some minutes on Saturday.

FC Cincinnati (2-5-1) go into this one sitting bottom of the Eastern Conference, needing a turnaround fast.

The Orange and Blue are winless in their last four MLS matches, not having won since beating Inter Miami 3-1 at home on March 19th.

Saturday’s visitors have similar defensive issues to their hosts, conceding 16 goals so far this season.

Unlike TFC though, their goal scoring has not been able to make up for their struggling defence.

“We know when we step on the field that it’s going to be an intense game,” said FC Cincinnati Head Coach Pat Noonan speaking ahead of Saturday’s match. “We need to be prepared to match that intensity, but also have some quality with certain areas of our game to be able to get a result.”

FC Cincinnati will be without defenders Ronald Matarrita and Raymon Gaddis.

Alec Kann, Tyler Blackett, Allan Cruz, Yuya Kubo, and Brandon Vazquez are questionable for the match.

Game notes

  • Toronto FC has never drawn against FC Cincinnati (4-2-0)
  • If former TFC man Nick Hagglund sees the pitch, it will be the defender’s first appearance at BMO Field since October 28, 2018

Predicted lineups

Toronto FC: Bono; Mavinga, Salcedo, O’Neill; Chung, Bradley, Osorio, Thompson; Nelson, Pozuelo; Jimenez

FC Cincinnati: Celentano; Murphy, Hagglund, Cameron; Nelson, Medunjanin, Acosta, Moreno, Powell; Brenner, Badji

Match details

Opponent: FC Cincinnati

Kickoff time: 3:00 p.m. EST

Watch: TSN

Stadium: BMO Field, Toronto, Ont.