Alejandro Pozuelo, the 2020 MLS MVP, returns to face his former club for the first time when playoff contenders Inter Miami visit a Toronto FC side on Friday night dealing with the disappointment of already being eliminated.
Miami (12-13-6, 42 points) enters the weekend holding the seventh and final Eastern Conference playoff spot by virtue of the tiebreak of having more total wins than the Columbus Crew (nine).
And though the Herons have been a poor road team overall, they've improved on their travels recently since Pozuelo arrived in a summer trade. Miami has seven points from the six matches Pozuelo has played, scoring eight of their total 12 goals on the road in those games.
Most recently, the Herons pulled off a dramatic 3-2 victory at D.C. United on Sept. 18 on Gonzalo Higuain's team-leading 13th goal of the campaign deep in second-half stoppage time.
"Toronto away is never going to be easy," Miami midfielder Bryce Duke said. "Especially with the players that they have. But we'll see how their mentality going into it is going to be with them not making playoffs. ... Hopefully that kind of benefits us. But we're just going to go in with the same mentality we do for any game. Just go there, three points, grind it out, hopefully we get the win."
Motivation is the big question for Toronto FC (9-16-7, 34 points), who had enormous expectations after a summer spending spree that included the addition of Italian stars Lorenzo Insigne, Federico Bernardeschi and Domenico Criscito.
But those moves were not able to solve the Reds' defensive issues. Those surfaced again in their last performance, a punishing 4-0 defeat at the hands of Orlando City. That took Toronto's total goals conceded on the season to 61, third-most in MLS.
Toronto's postseason hopes were already slim but were officially eliminated following the defeat. And captain Michael Bradley admitted afterward that his side's mentality was an issue in that performance.
"The frustration of certain things, the disappointment in certain moments, we've let that get the better of us," Bradley said.
--Field Level Media