They’re not the dead Reds yet, but Toronto FC desperately needs to get on a roll

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Toronto FC will have to play with the precision of an orchestra when they head down to Music City on Saturday.

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The Reds face host Nashville SC at Geodis Park and with 11 games left in the MLS schedule and Toronto sitting six points out of a playoff spot with six teams to leap over, it’s almost crucial that the team gets a win on Saturday.

“It’s easy to understand that now we’ve got to have a strong finish (to the season),” said TFC coach Bob Bradley. “Nobody thinks differently about that.”

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Other than the fact that it’s a tough road game, the Reds have a lot going for them on Saturday. The club is generally healthy and the three Italian internationals – Lorenzo Insigne, Federico Bernardeschi and Domenico Criscito – have another week under their belts with TFC. New midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye trained with the team this week and could be ready to play after missing the last two games with a lower body injury. As well, the Reds have re-acquired fullback Richie Laryea from Nottingham Forest, though it’s not certain if he’ll be able to play yet. TFC is also coming off a full week of training without the disruption of a mid-week game.

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“It’s been nice to have a week where we can really focus on how we want to play, get our legs under us again, get the travel out of us and focus. So, yeah, it’s been great,” said centre back Lukas MacNaughton.

Toronto (6-12-5) is yet to win on the road this season (D4 L7) following a scoreless draw in New England last Saturday. The Reds are win-less in 19 straight away matches (D6 L13) dating back to last July, though they haven’t lost in two straight games. TFC is coming off back-to-back clean sheets for the first time since Oct.2020.

Nashville (8-7-9) is on a win-less run that reached a season-high four straight games (D3 L1) after a 1-1 draw at Portland on Wednesday.

“They’re a solid team, well organized,” said Bradley of Nashville. “They’ve changed a little bit this year. Last year they played a lot with three in the back, this year it’s been mixed up more especially now that they’ve brought in Shaq Moore. I think they can still play him as a wing back but I think they will also go a little bit more towards (centre back).

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“(Hany) Mukhtar is an important player for them. (Very) mobile,” the coach added. “They’re good on set pieces, hit a lot of crosses. (C.J. Sapong) is a hard worker in the box. Teal (Bunbury) has given them some goals of late. Good, solid, organized team.”

If TFC expects to start recording some wins, the club needs some production again out of first-year forward Jesus Jimenez, who leads the team with eight goals but hasn’t scored in seven straight games.

“We’ve talked to him that he’s got to give us more. Physically he’s got to push harder,” said Bradley. “Mentally, physically, you go through a stretch, maybe chances don’t come quite as easily. But the ability to give more to the team … especially now when different players are around (Insigne and Bernardeschi on the wings). Just be more of a threat. Run harder to get into the box. Defensively, still, be more a part of helping us in different moments. I think he can give us more.”

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