Toronto FC to host Nashville SC as big names return from Gold Cup

Toronto FC to host Nashville SC as big names return from Gold Cup

With 26 points, Nashville SC has exactly double the number of Toronto FC in the same number of games (15).

But the sophomore team expects a tall order when the two clubs meet at BMO Field on Sunday.

“There is no doubt about it. They are a talented group like any other. They have quality in all areas,” said Nashville coach Gary Smith.

Toronto (3-8-4) is finally starting to show it, unbeaten in four games (2-0-2) under interim coach Javier Perez.

Nashville (6-1-8) is also on a run, undefeated in seven games (4-0-3) – a streak that began June 23 with a 3-2 win over Toronto thanks to two goals from Luke Haakenson. in the 83rd and 92nd minutes.

“I think we’ll see a very different group than the one we encountered not that long ago here,” Smith said.

“They are on a good race. I am sure this talented group is starting to find its way back,” he added. “And it’s no shock that they found themselves in this race as they get home. I can only imagine what it must have been like for all those Canadian teams to be away from home. as long as they have been. “

Sunday’s game is Toronto’s third at BMO Field since returning north from its temporary pandemic base in Orlando, Florida.

Veteran TFC defender Omar Gonzalez said the team are just happy to be home. Toronto has played 31 consecutive road games after its last game at BMO Field on September 1, 2020.

“As everyone knows, Orlando was pretty bad,” he said. “Coming home to Toronto, sleeping in our beds, being in our homes has been incredible for our morale, for our morale. And yes, things are positive here. It’s very different from just a month ago. Everyone is. more alive, everyone just seems to be happier.

“And in my experience, when you’re happy, you play.”

But he says the team’s comeback is just beginning.

“We’re not happy with where we are at and we want to keep pushing.”

Visiting Toronto kicks off a three-game, one-week road trip to Nashville that includes stops in New England and Inter Miami.

“It’s going to be a tough trip, a tough week,” Smith said. “And it starts with a very talented and difficult group that we play against.”

Although Nashville has never played in Toronto, Smith has fond memories of BMO Field. He coached the Colorado Rapids in the MLS Cup against FC Dallas in 2010 and still has the final ball.

His big hope is that his club will escape the extreme heat and humidity of Nashville, Tennessee, by coming north.

Toronto forward Ifunanyachi Achara and Brazil full-back Auro are considered doubtful for Sunday’s game. Achara has not played since the torn anterior cruciate ligament and lateral collateral ligament in his left knee in June 2020. But he is back in full training, with a comeback not far from there.

Auro suffers from a lower body injury.

The Toronto Gold Cup contingent – Jonathan Osorio and Richie Laryea (Canada), Kemar Lawrence (Jamaica) and Eriq Zavaleta – are back in the fold. Forward Ayo Akinola left for the season after sustaining an ACL injury during the tournament with Canada.

Nashville is absent from defending MLS Defenseman of the Year Walker Zimmerman, who suffered a hamstring injury during the Gold Cup. Veteran midfielder Anibal Godoy, who represented Panama in the CONCACAF championship, is a “last minute decision” following a hamstring injury.

Defenseman Jack Maher and former TFC full-back Daniel Lovitz are healthy and available again. Full-back Alistair Johnston is back from the Gold Cup with Canada.

A stingy defense has been a hallmark of Nashville since joining MLS. Only Seattle, which dominates the Western Conference, has conceded fewer goals per game (0.75) than Nashville (0.93).

Toronto is trying to solidify its defense but still ranks last in the league, allowing 2.13 goals per game.

Nashville has stepped up its offense this year, placing seventh with 1.60 goals per game. And that attack should improve with former Ivorian youth international Ake Loba who found his footing after joining the club on July 7 from Mexico from Monterrey.

“He looked absolutely stunning in training,” Smith said of the 23-year-old designate.

Forward CJ Sapong and German midfielder Hany Mukhtar led the Nashville offense.

Sapong, an 11-year MLS veteran, scored two goals and helped prepare the other in last week’s 3-0 win over FC Cincinnati. Sapong has five goals and three assists this season. Mukhtar, another of Nashville’s designated players, has seven goals and four assists.

Nashville goaltender Joe Willis, meanwhile, leads the league with seven clean sheets.

Nashville faces Toronto on August 1 at 7:30 p.m. ET.

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