Thriving despite injuries, Toronto FC take on Sporting KC

League: MLS

Posted on: 30 Mar, 2024 at 03:39 AM

Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Ravaged by injuries, Toronto FC has gotten through the first month of the MLS season with flying colors and looks to end March on a high note when they host Sporting Kansas City in a Saturday evening clash.

Coming off a 2-0 win over an Atlanta United side depleted by international absences, Toronto (3-1-1, 10 points) enters the matchup in strong form. However, the club moves forward with an injury bug that has seen key players, including starting goalkeeper Sean Johnson and Canadian international wingback Richie Laryea, on the sidelines over recent weeks.

Defenders Nickseon Gomis, Shane O'Neill and Raoul Petretta have also missed time, while superstar Lorenzo Insigne left the Atlanta match with a hamstring injury and will be out for up to six weeks. Captain Jonathan Osorio also stepped back from a Canadian national team call-up due to an injury.

Despite the challenges, Toronto is playing some of its best soccer in over a year, sitting as one of six MLS clubs already at three victories, as new head coach John Herdman has reinvigorated the group in 2024.

Heading into their first cross-conference clash of the season, Toronto FC hopes to carry the attacking form shown against Atlanta, which saw Tyrese Spicer, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 MLS SuperDraft, net his first professional goal for the club.

"I've been working my whole life for this," Spicer said. "A lot has changed very quickly. I was just in college, and now I'm in a professional environment. I think I just had to adapt really quickly."

Kansas City (1-1-3, six points), however, is no easy task for Toronto. Sporting KC offer a different look as a Western Conference club while also aiming to rebound after a 3-2 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy in their last match, after leading 2-0 at halftime.

Nemanja Radoja and William Agada scored in the first half before the Galaxy mounted their comeback, capped by an 80th-minute winning strike. Before last week's heartbreak, Kansas City had progressed well, picking up a 2-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes after starting the campaign with a trio of draws.

"We didn't focus too much on the defensive stuff; it was more," Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes said before traveling to Toronto. "We watched film from the game and watched situations and talked about those situations, and it's more of what happened in those 10 minutes and why it happened. It's being honest. ... I think everybody understands what we're trying to achieve."

Saturday's contest pits the clubs against each other for the first time since a 2-2 draw on June 7, 2019.

--Field Level Media