(Photo credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports)
FC Cincinnati can clinch the MLS Supporters' Shield with a road victory on Saturday against Toronto FC.
With four matches remaining on the schedule, it may just be a matter of time before Cincinnati (18-4-8, 62 points) secures its first regular-season title. Depending on other results Saturday, a victory technically isn't even necessary for Cincinnati to capture the Shield.
However, FC Cincinnati would prefer to seize the moment against the Eastern Conference's last-place team. Forty points separates Cincinnati and Toronto (4-16-10, 22 points) in the standings, and FC Cincinnati already recorded a 3-0 win over Toronto FC on June 21.
Coach Pat Noonan said FC Cincinnati aren't taking any opponent lightly, as "every game feels like (a must-win) just because of the situation we're in. You're trying to maintain your distance and not open the door for something to happen. Every time the guys step on the field, I think they recognize ... our end goal and what's in sight."
Cincinnati snapped a three-match winless drought (0-1-2) with a dominant 3-0 victory over Charlotte FC on Saturday. Cincinnati led 20-9 in total shots and 9-0 in shots on target.
Luciano Acosta is expected to face Toronto despite a nagging heel injury that has bothered the star midfielder in recent weeks. Acosta still looked in top form against Charlotte, collecting his 15th goal of the season.
Toronto FC are 1-11-0 in their last 12 matches, though that lone win came against another Eastern Conference power in a home match -- a 3-1 upset over the Philadelphia Union on Aug. 30.
Toronto followed that win with three consecutive defeats, including a 3-0 loss at New York City FC last Sunday. The struggles started early, as NYCFC's Andres Perea scored just two minutes into the match.
"We really put ourselves in a tough situation, but I really feel that ... we don't see the good things that we do because of the poor things we do more often," said Toronto goalkeeper Luka Gavran, who made his MLS debut.
Lorenzo Insigne and Brandon Servania didn't play due to lower-body injuries, and they are questionable for Saturday.
--Field Level Media