Speaking after last week’s loss, defender Lukas McNaughton described the Reds’ mentality heading into the final stretch of the season.
“Game-by-game,” said MacNaughton. “Every game is big to get into the playoffs. Every game matters, every point matters.”
The Reds will have their next opportunity on Saturday night as they head to the Bank of America stadium for a matchup against Charlotte FC. Kick-off is scheduled for 7pm EST and can be watched on TSN.
Last week’s loss will have been a tough one for these Reds to swallow. For large parts of the night, Toronto controlled the match, but individual mistakes cost them dearly. It also continued their appalling road record - where they have picked up just seven points in 13 matches.
Including Saturday night, the Reds have four matches left on the road, so if TFC wants to make a push for a spot in the playoffs, their road record will need to improve drastically.
From last weekend, the Reds have not added any new injuries to the list. Heading into Saturday night’s matchup, Quentin Westberg, Mark-Anthony Kaye, and Noble Okello are questionable to play. While Westberg and Okello would likely not have featured Saturday night in any case, the continued absence of Kaye is troubling news.
Jesus Jimenez, who was not selected for last weekend’s trip to Miami, looks to be available after supposedly being rested by Bob Bradley. The Spaniard has struggled to provide an offensive spark for the Reds recently. A week off might do the striker some good, however, what role Jimenez will play this weekend, remains to be seen.
Expansion side Charlotte FC has had a respectable start in their MLS tenure. Charlotte currently sits two points ahead of Toronto in the Easter Conference. While CLT FC has also struggled on the road this season, picking up just two wins, they have been considerably stronger on their own turf securing eight of their 10 wins on the season at the Bank of America Stadium.
The Crown come into this matchup hoping to bounce back from their own 2-1 loss against another Florida based team, Orlando City SC. The loss was Charlotte’s third in their last four matches.
While Charlotte don’t boast the same level of attacking talent that the Reds do, TFC will still have to be aware of Karol Swiderski. If Charlotte are to be successful in this match, they will have to be reliant on Swiderski who leads the team with eight goals and four assists so far this season, including scoring three goals in CLT FC’s last five matches.
Heading into this matchup, Charlotte will be without McKenzie Gaines through a leg injury. Gaines has featured in 20 matches for the Crown and had the lone goal for Charlotte in last weekend’s loss.
Toronto and Charlotte have matched up just once in their history, when the Reds cruised to a 4-0 victory. Toronto will be hoping for a similar result as their last time out against CLT FC.
While this match won’t have nearly the same level of anticipation as the reverse fixture did - with the introduction of Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi - its importance still remains the same.
It was a victory in this fixture at BMO Field that started a five game unbeaten run for the Reds just a few weeks ago, and with seven matches left this season, the Reds will need a win on Saturday night to try as they try and force their way into this year’s MLS Cup Playoffs.
Opponent: Charlotte FC
Time: 7 pm
Stadium: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.