Toronto FC vs. Inter Miami: What you need to know

TFC will attempt to earn their first road win in close to 13 months when they face Inter Miami on Wednesday night in Florida.

Toronto FC vs. Inter Miami: What you need to know
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One of the reasons why Toronto FC has stumbled through a nightmarish 2023 MLS season has been because of its abysmal form away from BMO Field. 

TFC sports the league's worst road record (0-9-4) and is the only team in MLS this year to have not won a single away match. In fact, the Reds are winless in 17 consecutive road games in all competitions (with 13 losses) dating back to last year and have lost six in a row by a combined score of 17-1. The team's previous road win was a 2-0 decision over Charlotte FC on Aug. 28, 2022. 

Toronto will have two cracks at ending that streak with a pair of tough road games this week. 

Here’s what you need to know about Wednesday's match between TFC and Inter Miami at DRV PNK Stadium (7:30 p.m. ET/Apple TV & TSN). 

Deandre Kerr a bright spot for Toronto

Deandre Kerr marked his 50th appearance for Toronto FC in all competitions with a man-of-the-match effort for the Reds and by scoring his second goal in as many games in Saturday's 2-1 home loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Kerr, 20, bagged his fifth goal of the campaign in the 50th minute off a great setup by Lorenzo Insigne to give TFC the lead against the Whitecaps. Incredibly, Kerr is now tied with Federico Bernardeschi (five goals) as the club’s top scorer this season. Kerr only had three goals in 2022 when he was an MLS rookie.

The native of Ajax, Ont., served as the main reference point in attack vs. the Whitecaps by playing between the Italian DPs in the front three, recording two shots and registering one key pass – the final pass to a teammate who makes an attempt on goal without scoring. He was also one of the Reds' top passers on the night with a 91.7 completion rate.

The hope for TFC is that the youngster can continue his scoring streak on Wednesday night in Miami.

"Over the last 13 weeks, I've seen a player that is just getting better by the week. There's been real consistency to how he's trained. I think [Kerr] working with Jonathan Osorio is important; Osorio is a big part of [Kerr] growing and some of his top performances," Terry Dunfield said on Monday.

"He's grabbed that No. 9 shirt with an injury to Prince [Owusu] and he's fending off CJ [Sapong] who's pushing him as well. ... We're still just scratching the surfaces of Deandre's potential as he starts to really learn the nuances of the No. 9 position."

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Will Lionel Messi see action for Miami?

It remains to be seen if Lionel Messi will be a part of Inter Miami's plans on Wednesday after the Argentine ace sat out the club's last two MLS matches. 

Messi didn't feature in the team's road loss to Atlanta this past weekend because Miami coach Gerardo (Tata) Martino revealed the World Cup winner "has muscular fatigue.” 

There's no question that Miami is a much stronger team when Messi plays, so the prospect of facing the Florida club without the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner in the lineup would make things much easier for TFC. 

But Terry Dunfield hopes his side gets the opportunity to face the man who a lot of critics believe is the sport's greatest ever player. 

"We're hoping to see Messi. I think since he's come to the league, his work has been incredible. Not only individually but how he's raised the stock of Inter Miami and then his teammates around him but also the stock of the league," Dunfield said. 

Messi has one goal and two assists in three MLS appearances for Miami, while also helping the club to win the recent Leagues Cup tournament and reach the finals of this month's U.S. Open Cup. Messi featured in all eight cup games (seven starts) with 10 goals and six assists. His last appearance was on Sept. 3 in a 3-1 road win over LAFC in which he collected a pair of assists. 

"I'm sure you ask any player of this past generation, especially of the younger guys, we grew up watching Messi, but every player watched him and continues to watch him every week. So, there's that part of it, but at the end of the day, he's just human and he's just another player, very talented obviously, the best of all of us. But he's still human and you just have to treat it like a normal game," TFC goalkeeper Tomás Romero said. 

TFC midfielder Victor Vázquez was a former teammate of Messi's at FC Barcelona. They also came up through the ranks together at La Masia, the club's famous youth academy. 

Given the nature of Miami's predicament in terms of the playoff race (more on that later, Vázquez expects Messi to feature against TFC. 

“There is no plan to stop Messi. The plan is just to play our football, to try to score more goals than them. That's the plan Messi is unstoppable. He's special, everybody knows that,” Vázquez said. 

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Forward Prince Owusu will travel with the team this week after sitting out the previous three games with a lower body injury. But chances are he's more likely to see action in Saturday's contest away to New York City FC rather than vs. Miami.

"The game against Inter Miami might come a little bit quick, but we're hopeful he can be available for New York," Terry Dunfield said.

Winger Cassius Mailula (lower body) missed the last two games and remains unavailable. He will need more time than fellow newcomer Owusu before he can return, according to Dunfield.

"His timelines are a little longer than Prince's but he's tracking well," Dunfield said.

Also ruled out for Wednesday's match is fullback Cristián Gutiérrez (lower body), who has made just two appearances for the Reds since being claimed off waivers on March 14.

Forward Adama Diomande (Achilles tendon) has been placed on the season-ending injury list which means he isn't allowed to play for the rest of the MLS campaign. Starting goalkeeper Sean Johnson (hand) and third-string goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh (knee) remain out with long-term injuries. Ranjitsingh was involved in training this week, while Johnson is still recovering from his surgery.

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What to expect from Miami

Miami (8-15-4) is one spot and six points above last-place TFC in the Eastern Conference table and is trying to close the seven-point gap on D.C. United who hold down the ninth and final playoff spot in the East.  

Miami saw its five-match MLS unbeaten run wiped out with a 5-2 loss away to Atlanta United on Saturday. Lionel Messi did not play in that game.  

Ecuadorian forward Leonardo Campana leads Miami in scoring this season with nine goals while midfielder is the club's top assist provider (four). Goalkeeper Drake Callender has started all 27 games and has recorded four clean sheets. 

"We've seen different versions of Miami from when Messi first joined in the Leagues Cup; in recent weeks we've seen different shapes and structures. So, we're at a stage right now where our focus is on us but we'll definitely take some of the learnings from their previous games to guide some of our principles," Terry Dunfield said. 

Miami is unbeaten in eight home games (with five wins) in all competitions and has scored at least three goals in four of its last five matches at DRV PNK Stadium.

What happened last time between Toronto and Miami

Wednesday's game is the first meeting between the clubs since TFC earned a 2-0 home win on March 18, 2023. 

After squandering second-half leads in each of its first three games of the campaign, TFC received goals from Canadian internationals Jonathan Osorio and Mark-Anthony Kaye to earn their first win of 2023. Osorio made history by becoming the first player to score in 11 different seasons for Toronto, while goalkeeper Sean Johnson earned his first shutout for the Reds. 

"It means a lot to be a part of this club. The 11 seasons [scoring record], it’s my job. It’s what I’m here to do. Being here for this club for that long, everybody knows how much that means to me, and how much I care for this club," Osorio told reporters after the game. 

Miami leads the all-time MLS regular season series against Toronto with five wins and two losses and has won all three of its home games vs. TFC by a combined score of 8-2. 

What's next for Toronto FC

TFC returns to action on Saturday when they visit New York City FC (7:30 p.m. ET/Apple TV).

(Top photo courtesy of Andy Truong/Toronto FC)

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