Red-hot Nashville SC will look to continue their postseason run when they visit Toronto FC in a first-round MLS Cup playoff game on Tuesday in East Hartford, Conn.
After posting a 4-1-2 record over their final seven regular-season games, No. 7 seed Nashville SC kept rolling with a 3-0 victory over No. 10 seed Inter Miami in last Friday's play-in matchup. The battle of first-year teams resulted in Nashville becoming the first MLS expansion side since 1998 -- and only the second ever -- to record a playoff victory in its debut season.
Nashville SC seem to be peaking both form-wise and fitness-wise. Friday's game marked the first time that Jhonder Cadiz, Hany Mukhtar and Randall Leal (Nashville's three Designated Players) were in the same starting lineup, and Leal and Mukhtar each scored within the opening 24 minutes.
"With Jhonder, Hany and Randall all on the field at the same time, there's an air of expectation, there's a different feel about the group," Nashville SC coach Gary Smith said. "The guys, I think, look at what we're capable of and go into the game with far more vigor, and I think you saw that in the first 20, 25 minutes."
One down note from the game was a possible hamstring injury for midfielder Anibal Godoy, who is questionable to play on Tuesday.
Second-seeded Toronto FC dealt with several injuries over the final weeks of the regular season, as Toronto went only 1-3-0 in the final four games.
With more than two weeks of recovery time since their last game, however, Toronto FC is "getting closer to full health," coach Greg Vanney said.
"We're moving in the right direction to have more bodies available than [in] the last game," Vanney said, though for some injured players, "what they can accomplish between now and the game will determine their availability, and/or how much they'll be available."
Jozy Altidore returned after a seven-game injury absence and Jonathan Osorio was back after missing three games to play in Toronto's most recent contest, a 2-1 loss to the New York Red Bulls on Nov. 8.
Toronto FC played in the MLS Cup Final in three of the past four seasons, capturing the trophy in 2017.
Tuesday's winner will advance to play the Columbus Crew in an Eastern Conference semifinal on Sunday.
--Field Level Media