After a much-needed 10-day break, FC Cincinnati picks up league play again with a midweek game against Toronto FC in TQL Stadium.
The team returns to the field after a 1-1 draw against the Vancouver Whitecaps, but won’t have the same squad that finished an eight-game in 24 days streak unbeaten. In the days after the draw, both striker Brandon Vasquez and defender Matt Miazga were called up to the US Men’s National Team for the Gold Cup.
While this is a return to the national team camps for the first time in a few windows for each player, it will leave FCC short-handed in a few key positions. Vasquez has led the striker line, playing nearly every available minute this season, and will leave a big hole to be filled. However, the natural replacement, Sergio Santos, is still questionable. He picked up an injury earlier this season, and made a return to the field against Colorado, before being subbed off only nine minutes later. While he practiced with the team all week, it will be interesting to see if he is considered 90 minutes fit by the coaching staff.
Likewise, the back line is facing a question of who starts, as both Miazga and Yerson Mosquera will be missing this game for international call-ups. This leaves the usually stout defense to spot starter Ian Murphy and regular starter Nick Hagglund, who is also coming back from injury, to hold the back line together.
While the midfield remains fully intact, it will leave questions for the coaching staff as to how they approach the missing gaps. Will they mix up the formation and put another player into the midfield and switch to a back four? Or is there enough trust in Alvas Powell or one of their 2023 draft picks Joey Akpunonu or London Aghedo to slide into the center back position?
Toronto entered the 2023 season with their ambitions on their sleeves after they brought in regular Italian National Team players Federico Bernardeschi and Lorenzo Insigne into the squad late in 2022. However, the first half of the season has thus far not lived up to the lofty ambitions dreamed up.
There have been constant rumors all season about the dysfunction in the squad, with stories reporting discontent between the two stars, and a lack of belief in experienced coach Bob Bradley. These frustrations finally came to a head at the beginning of June when The Athletic ran a story about these frustrations throughout the whole club.
This resulted in a benching of Bernardeschi for breaking team rules (AKA vaping in the locker room) and open calls from Toronto fans for Bradley and Team President Bill Manning to be fired.
However, both men remain in their position, and the release of the articles appears to have allowed the squad to clear the air and play with renewed vigor. Since the reporting was done, the team has picked up points in the four games since and gone 1-0-3, including a draw against second-place Nashville SC.
There are still difficulties for the Toronto squad as there are still holes in their lineup. Their starting and backup goalkeepers were both called up to Gold Cup rosters, leaving ex-Louisville City goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh as the first-choice goalkeeper. They have also been quite injured and will rely on depth to replace starting midfielder Michael Bradley and possibly central defender Matt Hedges.
While they may be lower in the table coming into the game, and have yet to win an away match in 2023, Toronto still has the firepower to challenge FCC, and will look to knock off the Supporter Shield leaders tonight.
WHERE TO WATCH
FC Cincinnati v Toronto FC
7:30 PM, Wednesday, June 21, TQL Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio
National Video Stream: AppleTV