Heading into Saturday night, there is just one objective that Toronto has in mind. Pick up all three points.
While the Reds have slowly started to look better and a more cohesive unit - which includes clean sheets in back-to-back matches in league play - it will be all for naught if they cannot pick up meaningful points and push up the Eastern Conference.
Toronto’s next test will be against Nashville SC at GEODIS Park, with kickoff on Saturday evening scheduled for 8 pm EST.
After a flying start to the season, Jesus Jimenez has cooled off and is now goalless in his last six matches. Jimenez was pretty much the only source of offence for the Reds for the first half of the season and that might be taking a toll on him. Bob Bradley will want his number nine to get back to his early season form as soon as possible. Bradley has had a preferred starting lineup since the inclusion of Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi, and it should come as a surprise if the Reds’ front three remains the same.
With Quentin Westberg unavailable due to a lower body injury, preferred starter Alex Bono will continue to keep his place. The two spots the Reds could see some changes are at right back and at midfield. Mark-Anthony Kaye, who missed out on last weekend’s draw in New England, is listed as questionable heading into the weekend. If the Canadian international is healthy, he should draw back into the midfield alongside fellow Canadian Jonathan Osorio and captain Michael Bradley.
The Reds announced the acquisition of Richie Laryea on Friday, and the Toronto native is set to make his second TFC debut in the Music City. The addition of Laryea will come as a huge boost to the Reds who have struggled to find an adequate solution in that spot since Laryea’s departure last winter.
Nashville will come into this match having picked up points in four of its last five matches (1-3-1), including draws in their last three. Currently sitting in sixth in the Western Conference, Nashville sports a 8-9-7 record, and has scored 30 goals, while conceding 30 times.
The Reds will be all too familiar with Nashville’s main goal threat, Hany Mukhtar. Mukhtar scored the winner that eliminated the Reds in the first round of the playoffs in 2020. This season, through 23 games, of which Mukhtar has started 22, he has scored or assisted on 18 of the 30 goals Nashville has scored. Wednesday’s 1-1 draw against the Portland Timbers, was the first time since the middle of June that Mukhtar failed to score or provide an assist in.
Safe to say, the Reds’ game plan should be simple. Stop Mukhtar and you can effectively stop the Nashville offence.
The Reds will need to be wary of Nashville’s fast start. In their last three contests, Nashville has scored the first goal and done so inside the first 20 minutes. While Nashville has gone on to concede and draw each of those matches, the Reds have had a tendency of making things go from bad to worse when conceding an early goal.
Nashville has played 10 matches at GEODIS Park this season. Through those 10 matches, Nashville has a 3-5-2 record. Nashville has clearly shown their willingness to play to a scrappy draw, however this still represents the best chance for the Reds to potentially pick up their elusive first win on the road this season.
Since Nashville has entered the league, this has been a closely matched contest. Toronto and Nashville have battled three times in the regular season and once in the playoffs. In the regular season, each team has won once, and the clubs have played to a draw once. On each occasion, the winning team has won the match by a one goal margin.
- The Reds sent Canadian Jacob Shaffelburg to Nashville earlier this week. Since he was loaned out, Shaffelburg will no be able to feature against the Reds on Saturday night.
- Last week’s draw means the Reds are yet to win on the road this season and is a streak that stretches to last season. Toronto has not won a road game since July 2021.
Opponent: Nashville SC
Stadium: GEODIS Park
Time: 8 PM EST