FC Cincinnati vs. Toronto FC Pick & Prediction FEBRUARY 25th 2024

FC Cincinnati begin their defense of the 2023 MLS Supporters’ Shield on Sunday when they host a Toronto FC side that massively underperformed expectations a season ago.

Behind Luciano Acosta’s MVP-winning season, in which he scored a career-high 17 goals and assisted 14 more, Cincy eased to a Shield victory by six points. The team clinched the honor for the best regular season with three matches to play after winning 3-2 at Toronto on Sept. 30.

That accomplishment may have felt bittersweet after Pat Noonan’s team was defeated at home in the Eastern Conference final by the eventual MLS Cup champion Columbus Crew.

But Noonan believes his team has acquired quite a bit of mettle from its exploits. It was on display when Cincy opened its competitive campaign with a 2-0 win at Jamaica’s Cavalier FC on Thursday in a Concacaf Champions Cup first-round series.

“These games are difficult, and it’s an unfamiliar opponent who’s doing really well and at the top of their league,” Noonan said. “Understanding what these games can look like and the challenges of being on the road and different atmospheres, different stadiums and how to navigate that … I think the guys responded well. It’s certainly good to get a win.”

The biggest changes for the FCC roster are the departure of center back Yerson Mosquera and the signing of U.S. national team defender Miles Robinson.

Toronto also signed a center back this week, former Sheffield United youth player Nickson Goemis, though manager John Herdman did not say for sure if the Frenchman will be available for Sunday’s season opener.

Fullback Richie Laryea has also returned to the Reds after a brief odyssey to Nottingham Forest and then the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Toronto can use defensive reinforcements after conceding an East-worst 59 goals last season. But the bigger challenge in Herdman’s first full season in charge will be harnessing the ability of Italian attackers Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi.

The pair combined for only nine goals last season, while reports surfaced of dressing room dysfunction under previous manager Bob Bradley.

“Can we be consistent in Game 1?” Herdman said. “That’s been our catch cry. And to get off to a strong start for this club. We’ll be tested, there’s no doubt.”

–Field Level Media

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