Preview: Nashville SC vs Toronto FC

Midweek soccer is back at GEODIS Park as Nashville SC host Toronto FC. With both teams losing last weekend, they’ll be looking to right their wrongs on Wednesday night under the lights.

Head-to-head

Toronto FC

4th (East) | 19 points | 6W-1D-5L | -1 GD |
Last match: 3-2 loss vs. NYCFC
Power Rankings: 17th

Availability Report

OUT: Richie Laryea (thigh), Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty (thigh), Shane O’Neill (thigh), Brandon Servania (knee)
QUESTIONABLE:
SUSPENDED: Federico Bernardeschi (red card), Kevin Long (yellow card accumulation), Prince Owusu (red card)

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Toronto FC are three points away from matching their MLS points tally from last season, they have 22 matches to go. As bold as it may sound, I think they’ll hit that marker.

With only a few changes to the squad, a lot of the credit has to be given to TFC’s new manager, John Herdman. The technical and tactical improvements are evident, but perhaps his biggest accomplishment thus far is getting buy-in from the squad. 

Toronto’s environment last season was one of, if not, the worst in league history. Arguments, distrust, players vaping and many other negative stories made their way into the news. “It was the worst environment of my career,” is how one Toronto player described it to The Athletic.

Herdman inherited a dysfunctional environment and has turned into a healthy one, which has brought positive results for the Reds on and off the pitch.

The biggest concerns for Toronto coming into the season had to do with the two Italian designated players, Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi.

In Insigne’s case, he had a great start to the season, scoring twice and assisting once  in the 329 minutes he played. Herdman seems to be able to get the best out of the second highest player in MLS. Unfortunately for the Italian, he sustained an injury in March that sidelined him for nine matches in all competitions. He returned to the pitch last weekend against NYCFC and featured for 14 minutes in 3-2 loss to the Pigeons at home.

Bernardeschi on the other hand, has started and played all 90 minutes in all 12 of Toronto’s MLS matches. He has adjusted nicely to a new wing back role, something he did somewhat frequently for Italian giants, Juventus, before his move to MLS. However, he will not be featured on Wednesday due to a red card he received at the end of last weekend’s match.

Herdman and his staff have also been able to get the best from their non-DP players. Canadian international and Toronto FC legend, Jonathan Osorio, continues to be a very important piece. Though he only has two goal contributions this season, he plays a huge part in the build up play and leads TFC in accurate passing.

Younger players like Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, Nicksoen Gomis and, former Lipscomb Bison, Tyrece Spicer, have also enjoyed good spells thus far in 2024. 

The Reds were involved in a post-match brawl after the conclusion of their home loss to NYCFC. Aside from the usual pushing and shoving, there were some headbutts and “aggressive hugs” as well. Herdman even accused the manager of NYCFC, Nick Cushing, of punching one of his players. 

As a result of the post-post match antics, Toronto’s leading goal-scorer Prince Owusu was issued a red card during the scuffle. The MLS Disciplinary Committee might hand out more suspensions ahead of the match.

Nashville SC

13th (East) | 11 points | 2W-5D-4L | -5 GD |
Last match: 1-0 loss @ Charlotte FC
Power Rankings: 24th

Availability Report

OUT: Randall Leal (hip), Lukas MacNaughton (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: Tyler Boyd (hip), Shaq Moore (hip), Walker Zimmerman (knee)

Nashville’s season is going almost as poorly as possible. It’s not quite rock-bottom yet, but it certainly has the potential to get there. This is the worst start in club history, with struggles to find any positive form whatsoever.

Nashville’s struggles really showed against Charlotte this past weekend. They didn’t create much of anything going forward, while their defensive lapses continued. With all that said, and because of the nature of MLS, the Boys in Gold are only three points away from the playoffs. 

“I don’t believe, and nor do any of the guys in the group, that we are by any way, shape or form, out of the hunt for a playoffs position,” said Nashville SC manager, Gary Smith. “A couple of results get you right back in to the mix again, and that’s of course our challenge over the next two games.”

Nashville’s transition to a back three should match up well against Toronto who play in a similar shape. With him only featuring for 16 minutes in Charlotte, Jacob Shaffelburg is expected to start the match. The Toronto academy product has been a crucial piece for Nashville’s new shape. 

Three time MLS defender of the Year, Walker Zimmerman, is expected to start this match as the middle center back. Also in defense, Shaq Moore was able to make his return to the pitch against Charlotte. After sustaining an injury at the end of March, Moore featured for 16 minutes as a substitute.

Zimmerman and Shaffelburg starting, while Moore possibly coming off the bench, should give Nashville’s attack a much needed boost; all while being more secure defensively.

Nashville will need to start the match on a positive note. Getting Hany Mukhtar or Sam Surridge involved and in dangerous positions early on can be a key to collecting all three points.

With Toronto missing multiple key pieces, Nashville having most of their squad back and the home field advantage, Wednesday’s match provides a great opportunity for the Boys in Gold to get a much needed win.

Pre-match quotes

Pod Picks

Chris Ivey

Score: Nashville 1-1 Toronto
Scorers: Surridge
MOTM: Surridge
Bold Prediction: Insigne scores a banger and extends Toronto’s unbeaten streak against Nashville to 6 straight……despite missing a few key players due to suspension

Ben Wright

Score: Nashville 2-2 Toronto
Scorers: Surridge, Shaffelburg
MOTM: Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Nashville allow less than 10 total shots, but concede two goals late to draw.

Jeff Remlinger

Score: Nashville 1-1 San Jose
Scorers: Shaffelburg
MOTM: Zimmerman
Bold Prediction: NSC play slightly better than TFC. But they’re unable to get the second goal and TFC equalize late

Valair Shabilla

Score: Nashville 2-1 Toronto
Scorers: Surridge x2
MOTM: Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Mukhtar gets two assists

Fan Forecast

Match info

Teams: Nashville SC v. Toronto FC
Referees: Marcos DeOliveira (Ref), Cameron Blanchard (AR1), Meghan Mullen (AR2), Matthew Thompson (Fourth), David Barrie (VAR), Jozef Batko (AVAR)
Odds: NSH (-160), Draw (+290), TOR (+390)
Date: Wednesday, May 15
Time: 7:30 pm CDT, GEODIS Park, Nashville, TN
TV: MLS Season Pass – Apple TV
TV Commentary: Tony Husband & Ross Smith (English), Sergio Ruiz & Walter Roque (Spanish)
Radio: 104.5 The Zone
Radio Commentary: Will Boling (English)
Forecast: 73°/58°. 68º at kickoff. Mostly cloudy. 25% chance of rain. 81% humidity. 4-10 mph wind.

Author: Valair Shabillamoved to Nashville as a refugee from Iraq at the age of 14. A fan of soccer from a young age, he used soccer to connect with a larger community in Nashville and adapt to life abroad. He's covered Nashville SC since 2019, co-hosting Pharmaceutical Soccer, and analyzing soccer from an audio/video perspective.

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