Toronto FC vs. Nashville SC Prediction, Preview, and Odds - 9/18/21
Eastern Conference foes at opposite ends of the table will face off on Saturday night when Nashville SC visits Toronto FC at BMO Field. Nashville is having a fantastic season at 10-11-2 to rank second in the East after picking up a 1-0 road win over CF Montreal on Saturday to cash in as a +233 underdog. Toronto has the worst record in MLS at a miserable 3-6-15, and lost again last weekend to Inter Miami by a 1-0 score as a +119 home underdog.
These teams battled to a 1-1 draw in Toronto back on August 1. Nashville leads 2-1-0 since joining MLS at the start of 2020.
Nashville picks up a road win in battle of contenders
While the top seed in the East is well out of reach, Nashville is now in second place after picking up a nice road win over a good Montreal team last weekend to extend its unbeaten streak to five games. After getting denied throughout the first half by some stellar goalkeeping, Nashville finally broke through on Walker Zimmerman’s header off a free kick in the 67th minute, and the defense clamped down to hand Montreal its first loss at Saputo Stadium all season.
Montreal finished with 59% possession and a 14-13 advantage in total shots, but only three of those went on target compared to eight for Nashville. Hany Mukhtar was credited with an assist as he delivered an excellent feed to Zimmerman on a free kick, while Joe Willis effectively dealt with whatever pressure Montreal generated in net.
“His presence alone — I’ve mentioned it on multiple occasion — lifts others around him,” Nashville coach Gary Smith said of Zimmerman via the Nashville Post. “He’s an organizer, a leader. The example he sets is such a high one. He looked composed on the ball, he looked a threat in the air and he was physically dominant.”
After struggling badly to score in its inaugural season in 2020, Nashville has been much better this year with an average of 1.65 goals and 14.26 goals per game. Nashville has the top-ranked defense in the East with 0.91 goals and 11 shots per game while racking up 10 clean sheets.
Mukhtar is in the conversation for the MLS MVP with 10 goals and nine assists on the season, the highest combined mark for any individual in the league. C.J. Sapong is also having a huge season with nine goals and four assists, while Randall Leal has scored four times.
There are no reported injuries for Nashville heading into the weekend. Striker Jhonder Cadiz and midfielder Dax McCarty should be available after sitting out last weekend due to suspensions stemming from a brawl with NYCFC the previous week.
Toronto looks to keep winless streak from reaching double digits
A nightmare season for Toronto doesn’t look to be getting better anytime soon, as it suffered a sixth straight loss with a 1-0 home defeat against Miami. Despite having center back Kemar Lawrence sent off on a red card in the 37th minute, Toronto was able to generate more of the dangerous chances yet couldn’t convert, and defender Chris Mavinga conceded a penalty in stoppage time that Miami converted.
Even a man down for most of the night, the match was about even with Miami owning 51% possession and Toronto having a 10-9 advantage in total shots. Jacob Shaffelburg thought he had the go-ahead goal in the 88th minute only to be denied on a fantastic stop by Miami keeper Nick Marsman, while Toronto keeper Alex Bono made three saves but couldn’t quite finish the job on the penalty.
“We are touching the right keys and tonight we started really well given the circumstances. We were in control of the game. We were energetic. We were fast and the game was in a good way while we were 11 versus 11,” manager Javier Perez said via Toronto’s website. “And then when we went one player down, we took the challenge and we accepted the game the way it was.”
It has been a massive struggle on both sides of the ball, as Toronto’s offense has only managed 1.08 goals and 9.25 shots per match. Toronto has the worst defense in MLS, allowing 2.08 goals and 13.95 shots per game while keeping a single clean sheet way back on May 12 against the Columbus Crew.
Jonathan Osorio is Toronto’s leading scorer with four goals in just 15 matches played. Yeferson Soteldo has added two goals and three assists while reigning MLS MVP Alejandro Pozuelo has dished out a team-high four assists.
Injuries have been a huge part of the story for Toronto, and three of their best players in Pozuelo (lower body), striker Jozy Altidore (season-ending foot surgery) and forward Ayo Akinola ( season-ending knee problem) will be sidelined for this weekend’s match. Midfielder Ralph Priso-Mbongue also underwent season-ending surgery. Lawrence will be suspended for the red card last weekend, putting more stress on an already thin defense.
Side Prediction: Nashville SC +140
Total: Over 2.5 (-110)
Oddsmakers continue to underrate Nashville despite its impressive season so far, and there’s no doubt at this point it is a better team than Toronto, which has all of one win against a top half opponent this year. Toronto has been plenty vulnerable at home without a single win on its resume since returning to BMO Field, while Nashville’s superior balance will lead to a fourth straight win for the rising club.
The warning signs were there for an aging Toronto back line near the end of 2020, and things have totally fallen apart this season as the unit is last in goals allowed and second to last in expected goals allowed. At one point the Toronto offense might have been good enough to somewhat make up for that, but not now with three of its best playmakers sidelined, and it only managed 0.6 expected goals against the stout Nashville defense in the first meeting of the year.
Nashville is one of the few teams that ranks in the top third of MLS in expected goals on both sides of the ball and boasts great playmakers at every level, which is just too much for out of sync Toronto to handle. Despite the final score Nashville actually outplayed Toronto in the last meeting, and as it is in much better form recently, this game will result in a win at plus odds.
While the defense has generally been the driving force for Nashville, advanced metrics actually point to the offense has being the stronger unit on the team, and it has piled up a whopping 2.4 goals per game during the current winning streak. Mukhtar might be the best offensive player in MLS right now and will shred a hapless Toronto defense that has struggled to contain far worse teams like FC Cincinnati in recent games.
There is some hope for the Toronto offense, as Osoiro, Soteldo and Richie Laryea are all still good players, and the Canadian side has managed a combined three goals in the two meetings with Nashville this year. An earlier matchup between these two in June resulted in five goals, and that’s more of what we’ll see Saturday with Nashville doing most of the damage.