Back on June 25, Orlando City got its first ever win over Toronto FC, but it was far from easy. The Reds were missing several key players, Orlando blew two one-goal leads, and only a 100th-minute penalty kept the result from being yet another in a long line of draws in 2016. But a win is a win, and that was the final happy moment for former head coach Adrian Heath, who was let go after the following league match at FC Dallas.
The Reds enter on a roll, with six wins, three draws and only one loss since that initial meeting of the season at Camping World Stadium in June. The Lions, on the other hand, are still finding their footing under new gaffer Jason Kreis, although a hard-fought draw at Colorado on Saturday was a promising result.
Here to help us scout the Reds for this second of three meetings is is Mitchell Tierney, the managing editor from SB Nation's Toronto FC blog, Waking the Red. I also answered Mitchell's questions, and you can read my answers to their questions over at their place.
Toronto FC has lost only one match since that 3-2 game in Orlando in late June. Is it just a matter of finally being healthy or is there more to this recent run of form?
Mitchell Tierney: Having a roster that is finally healthy certainly helps in a big way -- especially the return of Jozy Altidore, which has been vital to waking up an offense that was previously struggling to score. In the six games before Altidore returned to the lineup, Toronto FC scored only seven times. Since he has returned, Toronto FC has scored 16 goals in the past six games. Altidore, for his part, has scored four of those goals and added an assist.
But his presence has been bigger than just what he contributes statistically. Him being in the starting lineup also creates more space for Sebastian Giovinco, who has benefited immensely. After a prolonged scoring drought, Giovinco has eight goals and four assists in the six games since Altidore returned from injury.
On top of this, the midfield was getting rather thin, with Will Johnson, Michael Bradley, and Benoit Cheyrou out with injury. Toronto FC's youngsters did well with them out, but Bradley's return was certainly welcome. He definitely calms things down in the midfield, and allows those in front of him to do their job.
Having four of their last six games at home doesn't hurt either, but the fact that Greg Vanney now has a lot more options at each position is probably the main reason why the team hasn't lost in six matches.
Sebastian Giovinco seems to have found another gear since that first Orlando City-Toronto meeting. Obviously he’s difficult to stop, but how has he adjusted to what defenses are throwing at him?
MT: Again, a lot of his recent success has come as a result of the space that Jozy Altidore creates for him. Altidore is a true number 9 who can hold up the ball perfectly so that Giovinco can make runs into space and collect the ball with fewer, if any, defenders in front of him. The chemistry between the two has definitely risen to a new level this season, as they look for one another all over the field.
Another thing is Giovinco's confidence. He was getting all sorts of chances during his recent goalless drought, but consistently missed the goal or hit the post. A particularly frustrating game against Chicago saw him fire 13 shots, only to see none of them go in the net. When the dam finally broke, however, it exploded, as he scored a hat trick to end his goalless drought against D.C. United.
In this, he also became rather predictable, as in he would pretty much shoot from everywhere and rarely pass to teammates. With this in mind, defenders were consistently able to block his shots knowing that was what he was going to do. Now that he can also pass off to Altidore, they have to cover for both outcomes, which gives him the space he needs.
Both teams have undergone significant changes since the last time they met. Is there anything either coach can take from the first meeting that will translate into preparation for Wednesday night?
MT: I think for Toronto FC it will be having a better start. In the last meeting they allowed Orlando to take the lead three times, and never had the lead themselves. When Toronto FC scores the first goal this season they are undefeated, but when they concede first they really struggle to pick up points. So a quick start is going to be vital to what Toronto FC does in this match.
What may be more interesting is how Orlando City deals with Toronto. They did not do very well against the Giovinco/Altidore combo last season, so stopping them in current form is going to be a tall order. But again, if Orlando can slow down Toronto FC through the opening part of the game, and score a goal like they did last time, they will be in good shape.
Can you please provide any injuries or suspensions, your projected starting lineup, and your final score prediction?
MT: Projected Toronto FC lineup: Alex Bono; Justin Morrow, Josh Williams, Drew Moor, Steven Beitashour; Michael Bradley, Will Johnson, Marky Delgado, Jonathan Osorio; Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore
Injuries: Clint Irwin, Benoit Cheyrou, Mark Bloom.
Final Score Prediction: 2-0 Toronto FC.
Big thanks to Mitchell for returning to help us better understand tomorrow night’s opponents from the Great White North.