Toronto FC has no love for CF Montreal. But it could make its biggest rival do a big solid Sunday as MLS wraps up the regular season.
Toronto (9-17-7, 34 points) was eliminated from playoff contention in a 4-0 loss at Orlando City SC on Sept. 17. But it could still affect the postseason picture after Sunday when it visits Philadelphia, the team Montreal is chasing for first place in the Eastern Conference.
Montreal (19-9-5, 62 points) plays at Inter Miami on Sunday, looking to close a two-point gap with Philadelphia (18-5-10, 64 points).
Philadelphia will clinch the top seed in the East with a win over Toronto or a loss against Montreal or a tie in Miami. Montreal will finish first if it wins in Miami and loses to Philadelphia or ties TFC. If Montreal and Philadelphia finish tied on points, Montreal wins the tiebreaker based on more wins.
“They had a good season,” Toronto midfielder Marc-Anthony Kaye said of Montreal. “I have some good friends on the team and teammates from Canada who have talked to me about how important their game is. They have to win. And the result of our game.
“At the end of the day, we want to win. And if that means us winning helps Montreal, then lucky for them.”
Finishing first means home field advantage for the Eastern Conference division of the playoffs. And depending on what happens with West-leading Los Angeles FC in the playoffs, that could mean home-field advantage for the MLS Cup final.
TFC may face this tie without Italian trio Lorenzo Insigne, Federico Bernardeschi and Domenico Cristo, who did not train on Friday.
“All the question marks for the game. All the little things,” lamented Toronto coach Bob Bradley.
Toronto will finish 13th in the East regardless of what happens on Decision Day. For a team that is still in the making, more help is needed in goal, defense and attack.
While boosted by the mid-season acquisition of Italians O’Kai and fellow Canadian international Richie Laria, who returned to Toronto on loan from England’s Nottingham Forest, TFC currently sit 26th overall in the league – the Same as last year, albeit with six. More words.
Conversely, the Union was the class of the East for most of the season. But Philadelphia is paying the price for picking up just one point in its last two outings.
Last weekend’s 4-0 defeat at Charlotte, combined with LAFC’s 2-1 win at Portland with Denis Buanga’s superb 95th-minute winner, won the Association Supporters’ Shield for the best regular-season record. Finished hoping. The trophy goes to LAFC, along with a spot in the 2023 CONCACAF Champions League.
Philadelphia coach Jim Curtin called the Charlotte loss “a wake-up call” before the season where “it’s one bad game and you’re done.”
He said: “Make no mistake – we obviously wanted to win the Supporters’ Shield. We fell a little short,” he said. “The record is still an achievement for this group.”
Toronto has had more than its share of bad reviews. Bradley’s team has gone 13-6 in its last four games and is winless in five. Compare that to Philadelphia who, despite the latest injury, have conceded just 26 goals in 33 games.
“Ultimately, maybe this season isn’t what they were hoping for, but they’re also in the process of changing and changing the culture,” Curtin said of Toronto.
Prior to this current slide, Toronto had lost just one of eight games (4-1-3), a run that coincided with the arrivals of Ensign and Bernardeschi. Fifteen of TFC’s 34 points this season came during that streak.
Philadelphia is 11-0-5 at Subaru Park this season and has outscored visiting opponents 45-9, including 34-4 in its last seven home games. The 34 goals and plus-30 differential are both the most in any seven-game home stretch in MLS history.
Toronto is 2-10-4 away from home. Yet TFC is responsible for one of Philadelphia’s five losses this season, a 2-1 defeat at BMO Field on April 16.
By allowing 62 goals this season, Toronto is just four off its franchise-worst of 66, set last season when the team went 6-18-10.
Toronto will be without a suspended running back. Midfielder Jonathan Osorio (nervous disorder) is unavailable.
Philadelphia will be without the suspended Kai Wagner with Real Madrid expected to fill in at full-back. Curtin is awaiting word on the status of captain Alejandro Bedoya, who has missed the last two games with a hip issue.
Bedoya was listed as questionable.