—Preview — Toronto FC will face expansion side Nashville SC on Tuesday. This will be the first-ever meeting between these two sides, making this MLS playoff preview an unusual matchup.
Toronto FC will face Nashville FC for the first time in franchise history
Nashville finished seventh in the Eastern Conference. As a result, they had to play a Play-In Round playoff game against 10th seed Inter Miami CF. They are both expansion sides and were both looking to get their first-ever MLS playoff win.
On the field though, Nashville was clearly the better team. With just four shots on goal, Nashville had three goals winning the game 3-0. This included a fantastic goal scored by Costa Rican international Randall Leal.
RANDALL ROCKET#EveryoneN x @randall_leal pic.twitter.com/F0Su9LEFmN
— x – Nashville SC (@NashvilleSC) November 21, 2020
Nashville has scored six goals in their last two games. Furthermore, Alex Muyl was involved in half of those goals. Toronto will want to pay attention to Muyl for the MLS Cup Playoffs Round One matchup on Tuesday.
Nashville only had 24 goals in the 2020 MLS season. Their biggest strength is their defense, as they had only allowed 22 goals in the 2020 MLS season. This was the third-fewest goals allowed for any Eastern MLS team. This gives Nashville a goal differential of +2.
Our defense has been stout all season long.
But, it was the offense that shined on Friday night. #EveryoneN
— x – Nashville SC (@NashvilleSC) November 22, 2020
Offensively, the team is very balanced. Leal, Daniel Rio and Hany Mukhtar are all tied for the team scoring lead with four goals. Furthermore, Leal and Dax McCarty are tied in the team-lead with four assists each.
TFC are the heavy favorites to win their first MLS playoff game this year. However, they did play in the MLS is Back Tournament earlier this year. They were eliminated by New York City FC in the Round of 16. Toronto last played on November 8th, where they lost 2-1 to the New York Red Bulls. The team has lost three of their last four games. However, they finished with the second-best record in MLS and the Eastern Conference.
Toronto’s goal differential is +7, which is 10th in MLS. This included scoring 33 goals and giving up 26 goals. However, it is their ability to close games that have made the side so good. A total of 11 of their 13 wins this year were one-goal games. So, this game will be competitive. However, the quality of players for Toronto is top-class in MLS.
Alejandro Pozuelo is by far their best player. He is tied with the team-lead in goals along with Ayo Akinola’s nine goals. Pozuelo is also tied for first in MLS with 10 assists. Combining goals and assists, Pozuelo has been involved in 19 of Toronto’s 33 goals.
It is an honour to be named to the 2020 @MLS Best XI for the second year in a row.
This year hasn’t been easy, and we all have come together to face all the challenges we have encountered this season.
Thanks to @TorontoFC and all my teammates for making this possible. 💪🏽🔴⚪️ pic.twitter.com/3D3RuZwwzc
— Alejandro Pozuelo (@Pozuelo_10) November 20, 2020
There are also other players like Akinola and Richie Laryea that have stepped up. They have contributed to Toronto’s offense. Chris Mavinga has also played well for Toronto in the defensive end. Greg Vanney, Toronto head coach said that the team could have given up. But instead, stated how impressed he was with the team:
“It never did within our group,” he added. “We try to pride ourselves on being problem-solvers … The whole club, from top to bottom, everybody was great in staying in that mindset and trying to just move on from day to day and find the best scenario we could find in whatever the circumstances were.”
Injuries for both teams
Nashville does not have many injuries. Their only injury is Ken Tribbett, who is out with a calf injury. It is unknown if he will return to Nashville SC on Tuesday. However, this may not be the case for Toronto.
Ifunanyachi Achara is out with a torn knee ligament since July 2. Alex Bono has a finger injury since Oct. 13, which was the first of four injuries in October. Pablo Piatti has been injured since Oct. 23 with a calf strain and Justin Morrow has been out since Oct. 30 with a muscle injury. Marky Delgado has been injured since Oct. 26, but no one knows the cause of the injury.
The players Toronto fans should worry about though is Delgado, Morrow and Piatti. If they get those three players back, they should be considered heavy favorites to win. Achara has missed almost the entire season and probably would not start or get much playing times for Toronto. Lastly, Alex Bono is now the backup to starting goalkeeper Quentin Westberg. He will most likely get little to no playing time in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
Toronto FC vs. Nashville SC Game Overview
It is strange that the first-ever meeting of these two sides will be an MLS Cup Playoff game. However, Vanney is looking forward to playing against a brand-new side.
“We talked about it a little bit today (Saturday),’’ Vanney said. “We like the freshness of it. It’s nice in some ways to play someone you haven’t played four or five times this year, which tends to be the scenario because all the Eastern Conference teams are playing each other over and over.”
Both teams will be heading into the unknown on Tuesday. They do not know much about each other and do not have experience playing against each other. However, what is true is that both teams will be giving their all on Tuesday.
The game will take place at Rentschler Field at Pratt & Whitney Stadium in East Hartford. In the US, the game will be televised on FS1 and Fox Deportes. The game will also be streamed on Fox Sports App in the US.
While in Canada, the game will be televised on TSN 1/4/5 and TVA Sports. The game will kickoff at 6:00 p.m. EST on Tuesday. The winner of this game will face Columbus Crew SC in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
"We like the freshness of it. It's nice to play somebody that you haven't played four or five times this year. We'll have to do our homework, they'll do their homework, but there's something fun about that and we'll be looking forward to it.”#MLSCupPlayoffs | #TFCLive
— Toronto FC (@TorontoFC) November 22, 2020