The math is simple: Cincinnati would clinch a trophy with a win over Toronto FC for the first time in its MLS history. With 65 points, The Orange and Blue would secure the Supporters’ Shield as the regular season’s top team.
In their way is a road trip to Toronto FC at BMO Field. TFC have disappointed their own lofty expectations this season but have the talent to overcome and have surprised opponents this season who do not take them seriously.
“The players know,” head coach Pat Noonan said of the opportunity ahead of them Saturday. “Go win a game and you’re holding a trophy. So they don’t need to be motivated.”
While there are other pathways to securing the Supporters’ Shield Saturday, the most clear is a victory by The Orange and Blue.
“We won’t even talk about the other scenarios, because there’s one scenario in our control,” Noonan added. “If we can win a game we’ll win the Supporters’ Shield which will be an incredible accomplishment for the team and for our club.”
Toronto FC has been eliminated from contention in the 2023 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs but is looking to turn the page quickly, with newly appointed head coach John Herdman set to take over the club on October 1. Given the fluctuation in the coaching staff and roster, FC Cincinnati expects the unexpected while preparing for TFC’s best.
“The uncertainty of what you might see once a team is officially eliminated from the playoffs and what that looks like,” Noonan said of what concerns him about Toronto FC. “(From) personnel to changes in formation you just have to be prepared.”
FC CINCINNATI at Toronto FC – SATURDAY, September 30, 2023 – 7:30 p.m. ET – BMO Field
Stream: Free on Apple TV
TV Talent (English): Dre Cordero (PXP) & Greg Sutton (Analysis)
TV Talent (Spanish): Moises Linares (PXP) & Luis Geraro Bucci (Analysis)
TV Talent (French): Matt Cullen (PxP), Sebastien Le Toux (Analyst)
Radio: ESPN 1530
Radio Talent: Tom Gelehrter (play-by-play), Omar Cummings (analyst)
FC Cincinnati has been dominant over Toronto FC in recent history, winning five of their last six matches against TFC, including a first win in Ontario’s capital last April. All-time, FCC own the series with Toronto 5-4-0.
The Orange and Blue earned a challenging victory in their last match against Toronto at TQL Stadium. Missing five starters due to international duty, FCC still earned the 3-0 with goals from Santiago Arias, Luciano Acosta, and Dominique Badji.
FC CINCINNATI NOTES
The Midas Touch– FC Cincinnati captain Luciano Acosta currently leads the MLS Golden Boot Award race with 15 goals and 12 assists. The award is given annually to each season's top goal scorer with assists being the first tiebreaker. He is currently tied with Nashville SC’s Hany Maukhtar and Atlanta United FC’s Giorgos Giakoumakis with 15 goals but leads on assists with 12 to their 10 and 3.
Acosta scored and assisted on FC Cincinnati goals Saturday in their win over Charlotte, including his Golazo going the length of the pitch while deking out defenders along the way before finishing. He is also a leading candidate for the Landon Donovan MLS MVP.
Goal of the Year - FC Cincinnati’s Álvaro Barreal has been nominated for the FIFA Puskas Award for the most spectacular goal scored in the world this year. The goal is his volley against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal, scoring the game-winner on a corner kick that he fired into the upper corner.
The nod makes him the fourth MLS player to be nominated and the first from a U.S. Open Cup goal.
FC Cincinnati fans can vote on the award against the 10 other nominees here.
Comeback kids - FC Cincinnati have the best record in MLS when conceding first this season, owning a 3-4-3 record in 10 matches. The Orange and Blue have conceded first in eight of their last nine games but are 4-2-3 in that span.
With a .400 winning percentage when trailing at half, FCC also owns the best record in the league.
Looking for a sweep - FC Cincinnati is looking to sweep a team for the third time this season after defeating TFC at TQL Stadium earlier this season. Toronto is one of five teams FCC have swept before, doing so in 2022, but the club has never earned three sweeps in a single season.
Full strength - For the first time since FC Cincinnati took on Orlando City SC on September 2 The Orange and Blue will have a full complement of starters available for the match. Since newly signed DP striker Aaron Boupendza arrived with the club, only once has FCC played with a full first choice lineup due to injury and suspension.
SCOUTING Toronto (4-16-10, 46 PTS., 15TH EASTERN CONFERENCE)
Toronto FC finds themselves in a state of flux as the season comes to an end. The first, and to this point only, Eastern Conference club to be eliminated from the playoffs, the 2023 campaign marks a second consecutive season with disappointing results considering the major spending the club made to improve.
On the sidelines, TFC will be managed by Terry Dunfield, named interim head coach on June 26 after Bob Bradley was relieved of his duties, for one final time as newly named full-time head coach Jon Herdman will take over coaching duties on October 1.
Herdman comes to TFC from the Canadian Men’s national team, where he led the Canucks to their first World Cup appearance in 36 years. Before his time with the men’s side, he managed the Canadian Women’s national team, where he won the Olympic Bronze medals in 2012 and 2016. His appointment to head coach is his first job with a professional club and not a national team.
Italian national Federico Bernardeschi leads TFC in goals with five in his second MLS season. The former Juventus and Fiorentina winger has scored 13 goals and seven assists in 40 MLS matches since joining Toronto in 2022. Teammate and fellow Italian Lorenzo Insigne, TFC’s second designated player, has added four goals and four assists this season.
American goalkeeper Sean Johnson remains out with a fractured hand that required surgical fixing after an injury in training just over a month ago. In 19 starts before his injury, he had six clean sheets for TFC. Tomás Romero has handled starting duties of late, making 13 saves in six starts with 13 goals allowed.
Defender Kobe Franklin leads the club’s defensive core with 27 interceptions and a 54.7 winning duel percentage. TFC has the lowest goal differential in MLS with -24 and has conceded 48 goals and a league-high 46 from open play.