Preview: FC Cincinnati vs. Toronto – prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Sunday’s Major League Soccer clash between FC Cincinnati and Toronto, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Sunday will feature a matchup between the best regular season side in MLS last year, and the worst as FC Cincinnati kick off the 2024 campaign by welcoming Toronto to TQL Stadium.

Cincy had a league-best 69 points a season ago, losing in the Eastern Conference final versus the Columbus Crew (3-2 in extra-time), while Toronto had the worst record in MLS, collecting just 22 points.

Match preview

FC Cincinnati head coach Pat Noonan on October 30, 2023© Reuters

After years of being a bottom-of-the-barrel side in MLS, the shoe was on the other foot for the Orange and Blue in 2023.

The 69 points they collected last year were nine more than this side accumulated in their opening three MLS regular seasons combined.

Pat Noonan has masterminded the turnaround, employing a risky but effective mid-block approach in 2023, while their direct play and slick passing in possession were often too much for opponents to handle.

Noonan likes his front three attacking players to stay narrow and between the lines, allowing his wingbacks to get forward and provide width, stretching the opposition’s backline vertically and horizontally.

Cincy averaged over two points per game in 2023 (2.03), winning 13 of 17 regular season home fixtures and suffering just two defeats.

They have not lost a domestic contest versus a Canadian opponent since May 2022 (4-3 to CF Montreal) and have never been beaten by a side from Canada at TQL Stadium.

Toronto FC forward Federico Bernardeschi (10) receives a red card on July 4, 2023© Reuters

He has worked miracles for the Canadian men’s and women’s national teams, but John Herdman faces perhaps his greatest challenge yet in Toronto.

Herdman inherits a side coming off their worst-ever MLS campaign regarding points and wins (four) while netting the second-fewest goals in a domestic season in club history (26).

There did not appear to be a lot of harmony within this group last season, with reports of infighting and players storming out of training in what was by many peoples estimation a disastrous 2023 campaign.

Last season, the Reds were the only Major League Soccer side who failed to win a single away fixture in this competition, claiming just four points outside Toronto.

Over the past three domestic campaigns, this side have been messy on the back end, conceding the most goals in the Eastern Conference last season (59), though if there is a small consolation, they allowed seven fewer goals than in 2022.

TFC have lost all three of their previous visits to TQL Stadium, failing to score a single goal over that stretch, with their last victory in Cincinnati occurring behind closed doors in 2020 when the Orange and Blue called Nippert Stadium home.

FC Cincinnati Pre-season form:

FC Cincinnati form (all competitions):

Toronto Pre-season form:

Team News

FC Cincinnati forward Yuya Kubo (7) walks off the pitch after an injury on May 24, 2023© Reuters

The 2023 MLS Defender of the Year Matt Miazga will be suspended for FC Cincinnati, London Aghedo might be out with a leg injury and Nick Hagglund is dealing with a sore hamstring.

Their most notable additions over the off-season were Corey Baird, who came over from the Los Angeles Galaxy and Miles Robinson, twice on the MLS Best XI, while Brandon Vazquez left to join Monterrey, Yerson Mosquera is with Wolves, Junior Moreno is in Saudi Arabia and Santiago Arias joined Bahia in Brazil.

Luciano Acosta was named the MLS MVP in 2023, the first Cincinnati player to claim the award, and Roman Celentano was a finalist for Goalkeeper of the Year.

Deybi Flores was the biggest signing for Toronto over the off-season, with the Reds acquiring him from Fehervar in the Hungarian top flight and selecting Tyrese Spicer as the first overall pick in the 2024 MLS SuperDraft.

Victor Vazquez left Toronto to play in India, the club declined the contract of CJ Sapong, while Michael Bradley retired, leaving Jonathan Osorio as the new captain.

Federico Bernardeschi led TFC with five goals over the 2023 regular season, one more than Lorenzo Insigne, though both are rumoured to want out of Toronto.

FC Cincinnati possible starting lineup:
Celentano; Robinson, Murphy, Keller; Angulo, Bucha, Nwobodo, Barreal; Acosta; Baird, Boupendza

Toronto possible starting lineup:
Johnson; Franklin, Rosted, O’Neill, Petretta; Flores; Osorio, Blessing; Bernardeschi, Kerr, Insigne

SM words green background

We say: FC Cincinnati 2-0 Toronto

Cincinnati made a massive statement with their domestic performances last year, and while they have lost some solid attacking pieces, they still have plenty of great chance creators capable of contributing.

There is a lot of healing that needs to be done in Toronto, which might not happen overnight, while there are plenty of defensive improvements that still need to happen.

For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.

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