FC Cincinnati can match the 2002 San Jose Earthquakes for the longest winning run at home in MLS when they host Toronto at TQL Stadium on Wednesday.
The Orange and Blue have won all nine of their domestic encounters at home this season and lead the Supporters’ Shield standings with 40 points, more than half of the Reds’ current total (19), despite the Canadians going unbeaten in four straight matches, playing to a 1-1 draw versus Nashville SC the last time out.
A franchise that could not buy a victory a few years ago cannot seem to lose in 2023, with Cincy currently unbeaten in their previous 13 matches in all competitions.
At the midway point of the current regular season, they have already collected 40 points, a feat which took them until matchday 30 to reach a year ago.
The biggest improvement in year two under Pat Noonan has easily been their defensive structure, as the Orange and Blue are tied with Los Angeles FC for the second-fewest goals conceded this season (16).
In 2022, this team made the postseason for the first time, thanks to their outstanding quality in the attacking third, winning six matches by two or more goals.
This season, they have discovered how to win close games, showing poise and a solid defensive commitment under pressure with 10 victories by a single goal, six of which were 1-0 results.
Not only are they perfect at TQL Stadium this year, but Cincy also hold a 100% record versus TFC in their current home venue, winning both encounters against them by a 2-0 score.
Throughout much of the current campaign, Toronto have lacked that killer instinct to finish teams off, and that is the primary reason they currently find themselves 13th in the Eastern Conference, three points outside of a playoff spot.
Bob Bradley has seen his side go into half time with the lead five times domestically in 2023 but they have only emerged victorious in one of those instances, drawing their previous two matches 1-1 versus Minnesota United and Nashville despite drawing first blood each time.
For a squad that invested heavily in attacking quality last year by adding players with experience in the big five European leagues, it is puzzling to see them among the lowest-scoring sides in MLS this season, having netted the third-fewest goals in the Eastern Conference so far (17).
TFC are one of only three teams in the league this year without a road victory, with their previous away triumph in this competition coming at the end of August 2022, 2-0 at Charlotte FC.
Their quality has been especially poor away from home this season as the Reds have failed to find the back of the net in half of their road fixtures played this year (four of eight).
Toronto have conceded 12 goals this season away from home, eight of which have come in the second half, including four beyond the 80th minute.
Yerson Mosquera will be suspended for this upcoming Cincinnati game due to yellow card accumulation, Nick Hagglund is listed as questionable with a hamstring strain, something which continues to keep Sergio Santos on the sidelines, while it seems unlikely that Brenner will return to the club before his summer transfer to Udinese, as the Brazilian has not played since sustaining an ankle injury weeks ago.
Brandon Vazquez and Matt Miazga will be a part of the US national team for the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which kicks off this weekend, Mosquera was named to the Colombian team during the current international window, Junior Moreno has been called up to the Venezuelan squad, while the recently signed Aaron Boupendza is with Gabon.
Luciano Acosta had the only goal for Cincy in their draw versus Vancouver, while he has 51 primary assists since entering MLS in 2016, second only to Julian Gressel of the Whitecaps (55) over that span, and Roman Celentano has the second most clean sheets in MLS this season (eight), one behind Stefan Frei, with five of those shutouts occurring at TQL Stadium.
Lower body injuries have kept numerous Toronto players off the field for weeks, including Matt Hedges, Shane O’Neill, Victor Vazquez, Adama Diomande, Alonso Coello Camarero and Michael Bradley.
Tomas Romero will be a part of the El Salvador squad for the Gold Cup, Richie Laryea and Jonathan Osorio were called up to the Canadian team and Sean Johnson was named to the US side.
Lorenzo Insigne has a goal in back-to-back contests for the Reds as he is tied with fellow Italian Federico Bernardeschi for the team lead in strikes domestically this year (three), while Mark-Anthony Kaye leads MLS in tackles won this season (46).
FC Cincinnati possible starting lineup:
Celentano; Arias, Gaddis, Murphy; Powell, Nwobodo, Moreno, Barreal; Kubo; Acosta, Badji
Toronto possible starting lineup:
Ranjitsingh; Franklin, Petretta, Mabika, Marshall-Rutty; Kaye; Kerr, Bernardeschi, Insigne, Akinola; Sapong