April 24th, 2024

Toronto FC down four players as it opens MLS regular season in Cincinnati

By Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press on February 24, 2024.

Toronto FC head coach John Herdman looks on during a press conference at the BMO Training Field in Toronto, Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2023.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin

Toronto FC will be without forwards Deandre Kerr and Jordan Perruzza, newly signed defender Nickseon Gomis and top draft pick Tyrese Spicer for Sunday’s MLS season opener at FC Cincinnati.

Kerr (calf), Perruzza (groin) and Gomis (head) are all unavailable, according to the league injury report Saturday.

Gomis, who was on trial with TFC during the pre-season, is sidelined by a concussion-related issue dating back to the final.

Spicer, the Trinidad winger/wingback who was the first overall pick in the 2024 MLS SuperDraft, is with TFC II this weekend to get some playing time after being sidelined by a toe injury.

Italian star Lorenzo Insigne expects to see some minutes after having a reaction to training on artificial turf following the team’s return to Toronto from training camp in California.

Fullback Richie Laryea, reacquired this week in a transfer from England’s Nottingham Forest, is available Sunday although coach John Herdman said his game fitness would be assessed prior to kickoff.

Sunday’s game is a first-against-worst matchup.

Toronto was last in the league at 4-20-10 while Cincinnati won the Supporters’ Shield with a league-best 20-5-9 record to finish 47 points ahead of Toronto.

Toronto is 4-6-0 in its 10 previous meetings with Cincinnati, which has won the last four meetings and six of the last seven meetings between the foes. Cincinnati has also won three straight at home against Toronto without conceding a goal.

Herdman is looking ahead not behind, however.

“We’re starting to bind around a common vision,” he said. “Even if we have a rough week this week, I think the commitment is if you’re going to lose a football match to Cinci, we lose the right way. And that’s it. That’s all I’m asking for these players,

“Yeah we (want to) win. But if you are going to lose and it’s not our day, then we lose the right way. And I think that was something that had to be turned from last season.”

Herdman is also unfazed by the pundits who have picked Toronto to finish well down the table again this season, pointing to his success with the Canadian men’s team

“We said we’d qualify for a World Cup and we manifested it, we made it happen,” he said. “No one said that was possible back then. (They said) ‘You’ll not qualify for ’22, wait for ’26.’

“This is the business we’re in of proving people wrong. I’ve been doing that all my life, I think.”

For Cincinnati, the home opener falls in the middle of its Champions Cup tie with Jamaica’s Cavalier FC. Cincinnati won 2-0 in Jamaica on Thursday and is hosting the return leg Wednesday at TQL Stadium.

“I’m expecting a motivated group,” said Cincinnati coach Pat Noonan. “You look at their pre-season and you see a lot of difference from what I would say what we saw towards the end of last year when we faced off (in a 3-2 win at BMO Field on Sept. 30).”

Noonan called Toronto “a new opponent with a new coach.”

Cincinnati will be without the injured Alec Kann and Nick Hagglund, a former TFC defender, and the suspended Matt Miazga.

For Herdman, it is only game No. 2 on the TFC sidelines and his first in charge away from BMO Field. While he took over the team Oct. 1, he let assistant coach Terry Dunfield run the team for two games so he could watch from a distance before taking over for the season finale, a 2-0 loss to visiting Orlando.

Toronto finished the season mired in a seven-game losing streak and having won just one of its last 18 games (1-17-0) in all competitions. TFC failed to win on the road in league play (0-13-4) last season and has not won away from home since Aug. 27, 2022, when it won 2-0 at Charlotte FC.

Blanked in its last eight road outings, Toronto’s goalless drought away from home stands at 799 minutes since Kerr scored in a 2-1 loss at New England on June 24, 2023. TFC was outscored 25-0 in its final eight road outings last season.

Three TFC players have changed numbers this season with Ayo Akinola switching from 20 to nine, fellow forward Prince Owusu opting for 99 instead of 25 and midfielder Alonso Coello wearing 14 instead of 52.

Newcomers Gomis, Spicer and Deybi Flores will wear 15, 16 and 20, respectively.

TFC is looking for its first season-opening win since 2019 when it won 3-1 at Philadelphia. Toronto is 5-9-3 in season openers, with 16 of those games on the road.

Sunday’s game will be played with replacement officials in charge after the Professional Soccer Referees Association rejected a tentative agreement with the Professional Referees Organization, which then locked out the officials.

After Cincinnati, Toronto plays at New England on March 3 before returning to BMO Feld for the March 9 home opener against Charlotte.

Follow @NeilMDavidson on X platform, formerly known as Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2024

Share this story:

31
-30
Subscribe
Notify of
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments