Even though expansion FC Cincinnati has been eliminated from playoff contention, Toronto FC can’t afford a slip-up Saturday in Ohio as it seeks an Eastern Conference playoff spot.
Seventh-place Toronto (10-10-8, 38 points) holds the final postseason berth, a point behind New England and a point ahead of Montreal with six matches left for Toronto and New England and four for Montreal. Orlando City (five games left) and Chicago (four) each have 34 points.
It had been a foregone conclusion Cincinnati (5-20-3, 18 points) would not qualify but it became official Aug. 31 with a 3-1 loss to FC Dallas to extend its winless streak to 0-7-1 with three straight losses.
Still, Toronto defender Omar Gonzalez is wary of how Cincinnati responds.
“A lot of these times, players are playing for their futures, for their right to be on the team, to not be traded, get another contract,” Gonzalez said. “Although they’re out of the playoffs they’re still playing for something.”
One of those motivated for the game at Nippert Stadium is Nick Hagglund, who spent 2014-18 with Toronto, winning an MLS Cup in 2017. He now plays for his hometown team.
Hagglund returned to Toronto on July 27 when Cincinnati lost 2-1.
“It’s a little different in that I’m not going back and playing in front of the fans in Toronto but right now I have an opportunity to play against a former team and there’s something fun about that,” Hagglund said.
Hagglund said it’s important for Cincinnati to establish a base for next season.
“We’re getting different looks at different guys but also a good identity moving forward,” he said.
Toronto has a win and three draws in its past four matches.
“When teams get eliminated, you never know what you might see from the opposition,” TFC coach Greg Vanney said. “They might try some younger guys. They might try some guys they want to evaluate. It doesn’t matter who it is, the points matter now.”
–Field Level Media