Toronto FC suffered a surprise home defeat to FC Cincinnati last time out, but there was nevertheless some joy, as Ayo Akinola made his long-awaited comeback from injury.
Akinola suffered a knee injury in the 2021 Gold Cup and has been kept out of action for nine months.
However, the forward returned to make a cameo appearance from the bench in Saturday’s 2-1 reverse, coming on in the 74th minute.
Toronto now travel south of the border to play Cincinnati again, and Akinola was thrilled to be back on the field.
“I felt fine,” said Akinola. “Just more the enjoyment, the excitement after nine months being out. To get my first couple minutes back playing felt really good.
“I felt physically fine. The knee, it’s all fine. Obviously it would have been better if we got the win, but overall I was happy.”
While Akinola was unable to inspire Toronto to a victory on his return, Cincinnati’s Obinna Nwobodo was more effective from the bench.
With Toronto having pulled one back from 2-0 down, Nwobodo came on to solidify Cincinnati’s midfield, making three successful tackles.
It was a first appearance for Nwobodo, who had only had a handful of training sessions with his new team.
“It will go up from here. He’s coming from a real league on a team that he’s matched up against some very good players in some great atmospheres, so this isn’t a shock to his system,” coach PatNoonan said of Nwobodo, who signed from Turkish side Goztepe.
“I think you could see that with how he’s closing the ball, how he’s brave in those moments not just to win the ball but pick his head up and find a pass that breaks a pressure. He wasn’t rattled by this being his first minutes with a new team.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Toronto FC – Jesus Jimenez
Jesus Jimenez scored his seventh goal of the season in Toronto’s defeat to Cincinnati on Saturday, his third straight game with at least one goal.
FC Cincinnati – Luciano Acosta
Luciano Acosta has scored in back-to-back matches, netting against Los Angeles FC and Toronto. The only player in team history to score in three straight matches in a single season was Brandon Vazquez, who did so in October 2021.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Cincinnati beat Toronto, 2-1, on Saturday, recording a third win over the Reds in the club’s MLS history.
– Cincinnati have six wins against the two Canadian teams in the Eastern Conference (three each vs. Toronto and CF Montreal), more than one-third of the club’s all-time MLS wins (17).
– Cincinnati’s 2-1 win over Toronto on Saturday was their third victory of the season, one fewer than they managed all of last season. Cincinnati have won three of their last seven matches after recording just three wins in the previous 31 games.
– Toronto are winless in 12 straight away matches (D4 L8) dating back to a 2-1 win in Chicago last July. Toronto have had only three longer road winless runs in the club’s MLS history, most recently a 14-game run in 2012-13.
– The only Toronto players with more goals in their first nine appearances of a season than Jimenez are Jermain Defoe (eight in 2014) and Dwayne De Rosario (eight in 2010).