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MLS Season at Crucial Point For Charlotte FC and Toronto FC

The calendar may indicate that it’s the last weekend of August, but while the MLS season reaches its home stretch, playoff intensity has already reached a critical point for two sides in the Eastern Conference, as both Charlotte FC and Toronto FC enter this weekend with slim hopes to progress to the MLS Cup Playoffs.

These teams are slated to meet one another for the second time in roughly a month on Saturday night (7:00 pm ET/ 4:00 pm PT, MLS Live on ESPN+).

This time around, it"s a de facto cup final for both teams at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.

Toronto FC Shutout Charlotte FC in First Meeting in 2022 MLS Season

A month ago, Toronto FC and Charlotte FC met one another in league play for the first time since Charlotte joined MLS at BMO Field in Toronto on a banner night for the homestanding team in a 4-0 triumph.

Toronto drew first blood in the fourth minute of play, when midfielder Jonathan Osorio converted on a right-footed shot to give his club a 1-0 lead, followed up in the 10th minute of the first half with fellow midfielder Michael Bradley‘s tally from a cross by forward Federico Bernadeschi.

Bernadeschi would find the net himself in the 30th minute of play to increase Toronto FC"s advantage to 3-0 before Bradley would convert his second goal of the night in the second minute of first-half stoppage time.

Fuchs" Suspension Delayed By Lightning

Charlotte FC defender Christian Fuchs was assessed a red card in the 65th minute of play, as well as a subsequent fine after the match, necessitating a one-game ban for the team"s July 30 home match against Columbus Crew SC at Bank of America Stadium, but a marathon lightning delay ultimately suspended and postponed the game on its scheduled date.

Fuchs will finish out his suspension when the match is resumed and completed on Oct. 5 in Charlotte.

Both Charlotte FC and Toronto FC Have Uphill Battle

As per the FiveThirtyEight MLS Cup Playoff odds on the morning of Aug. 26, the numbers aren"t pretty for either club ahead of Saturday"s all-important match.

It"s a coldly simple deal for this game: The winner stays alive in the playoff race for another week, while the loser"s already slim odds to make it into postseason play become even more miniscule.

Numerically speaking, Charlotte FC has a slightly better chance to advance to the MLS Cup Playoffs if the MLS season were to end today.

MLS" expansion team currently has nine percent odds to keep playing soccer beyond the second weekend of October.

Meanwhile, in the Canadian province of Ontario, Toronto FC, just three MLS seasons removed from representing the Eastern Conference in the MLS Cup Final, enter this last weekend of the month with just a five percent chance to return to the playoffs this year.

Thus, it goes without saying that this match is the most important 90 minutes of the MLS season for both clubs.

Christian Lattanzio: “I Really Don"t Like ‘Must-Win Games" Mentality"

During his Thursday media availability, Charlotte FC Interim Head Coach Christian Lattanzio didn"t buy into the hype that Saturday"s contest is a game his team has to have in order to make it to the postseason.

“I really don"t like this ‘must-win games" mentality because, of course, every game, we want to win," Lattanzio began. “We don"t need that. We showed also against Orlando where there was one team going for the win, and then unfortunately, one moment, one mistake defined the result. I think that we showed everybody, and the boys certainly, they have an attitude. It doesn"t matter how strong the opposition is, we go to win the game, whenever possible."

Importance of Charlotte FC/ Toronto FC Match Not Lost on Jozwiak

Charlotte winger Kamil Jozwiak met with the press on Wednesday afternoon, during which time he echoed the team"s feelings over last Sunday"s 2-1 defeat against Orlando City SC, where forward Tesho Akindele broke a 1-1 deadlock with an 89th-minute tally off of his own rebound to grab three points on the road.

“After the game, everyone was angry, and everyone was disappointed because we knew that this game is so important for us, but we lost," Jozwiak said. “We know our situation, there"s not many games to the end."

Jozwiak mentioned that at this point in the MLS season, it is crunch time for Charlotte FC.

“We have to start to win games, and especially the next two games (at home versus Toronto FC and away versus FC Cincinnati) will be so, so important for us," he said. “It"s our work, and now, we have to forget about this (last) game. Of course, we have to see what mistakes we did, but we have to forget about this game and those results and we have to focus on this game against Toronto."

As previously stated, the playoffs begin now for both Charlotte FC and Toronto FC.

Toronto FC Also Reeling From Loss Last Week

There"s an old adage that goes “misery loves company", and much like Charlotte FC against Orlando City, Toronto FC suffered a defeat last weekend by a 2-1 final versus Inter Miami CF.

In the 24th minute of play, Miami midfielder Jean Mota converted on a left-footed attempt following a pass from Gonzalo Higuain to give the home team a 1-0 lead, but the advantage was a short-lived one.

Just four minutes later, Toronto midfielder Lorenzo Insigne tied up the contest with a right-footed shot to the bottom of the net.

Inter Miami CF took the lead for good in the 44th minute of action, thanks to winger Ariel Lassiter finding the middle of the goal thanks to a header from defender Damion Lowe from a set piece.

Bob Bradley Eager To Win Again Versus Charlotte FC

Toronto FC manager Bob Bradley has maintained his team"s ultimate goal throughout the MLS season, something that came up again in Thursday"s press conference.

“All year we had ideas on things that we wanted to work on," Bradley said. “Ideas of the way we play, principles. You can see some of these things that have been there right on through- whether we were able to sustain them as long or do them at a level quite high enough, those are different things. There were at times adjustments with injuries, adjustment to try to get the most out of different guys, but we never lost sight of how we wanted to play."

Will Bradley guide Toronto FC to a critical victory against Charlotte FC on Saturday?

Final Thoughts on the MLS Season

While the MLS Cup Playoffs are undoubtedly exciting to watch, there are some matches late in the regular season that have a playoff feel to them, and that"s just what"s on the menu this Saturday in Charlotte.

On paper, expect Charlotte FC to have the upper hand against Toronto FC since this will be a home game for them.

Throughout the club"s freshman season in the league, Charlotte has recorded eight of its 10 victories on home turf at Bank of America Stadium.

Although the usual MLS capacity in Charlotte is just 38,000 spectators, Bank of America"s total capacity is slightly under 75,000, and even with roughly half of the seats available, their fans can bring the noise to make it sound like a 75,000-seat stadium.

They"ll need to bring the noise on Saturday as this is the biggest match of the season, but if Toronto FC jumps out to a quick lead on the road like they did at home against Charlotte FC, the 12th man will be taken out of the match.

Let us know how you think the MLS season will end for Charlotte FC and Toronto FC? Let us know in the comments below!

Main image credit Embed from Getty Images

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