We’re four months into the 2017 MLS season now — just past the halfway point with another four months to go in the regular season — and things, you could say, have been going well for Orlando City to this point, all things considered.
The Lions lost their captain for more than a month 11 minutes into the season and have struggled in the last couple of months after getting off to such a roaring start, but even with that and more, the Lions (8-6-5, 29 points) find themselves sitting in fourth place in the Eastern Conference and fifth overall in the Supporters’ Shield standings. Not bad.
Now, for the second week in a row, Orlando City will run into one of the best teams in MLS tomorrow night when Toronto FC (10-3-5, 35 points) heads to Orlando City Stadium for its second meeting of the season with the Lions (7:30 p.m. ET, TV27).
These two sides met earlier in the season, you may recall, exactly two months ago back on May 3. After the Lions gave up a pair of early goals, Kaká scored at the end of the first half, but it wasn’t enough for Orlando City, which was arguably the stronger side for the majority of the match, to pull out a point in a 2-1 loss. That match was followed up days later with a 4-0 defeat in Houston.
This time, the Lions are coming into the match on the heels of a 1-0 victory at Real Salt Lake on Friday night. It was just the club’s second road victory of the season, and its first win in five games in June, as the Lions finished the month with a modest 1-1-3 record.
As for the Reds, they suffered defeat over the weekend, falling to FC Dallas, 3-1, on the road on Saturday. They’ll continue their road trip with a quick three-day turnaround as they head to another tough place to play in Orlando, where the home side has lost just one game this season.
This is the eighth all-time meeting between the two clubs since Orlando City joined the league in 2015, and Toronto leads the series with five wins to Orlando’s one, with one draw thrown in there. Meanwhile, Toronto has also outscored Orlando by a wide margin, 15-5.
Good news for the club and fans, the transfer window officially opens up next week, which will lead to much more speculation about what the club will and won’t do in the summer window, but more importantly after this match, the Lions will take a two-weeks hiatus from action as the Gold Cup gets underway.
The Lions have played a lot of soccer in the past month and a half, and if there’s anything they need, it’s a short break to recuperate, get healthy, and get ready to come back strong for a pair of games against expansion newcomer Atlanta United at the end of the month.
With four days of rest since the last game at RSL, Jason Kreis will likely be ready to sport a full-strength lineup against Toronto on Wednesday night. Striker Carlos Rivas, who missed the RSL game with a bruised ankle, returned to training on Monday and should be available for selection, according to Kreis.
We haven’t heard much on the status of Antonio Nocerino since Friday, though, and that might be a positive sign. The Italian midfielder left the game at halftime for precautionary reasons related to inflammation in his right hamstring.
The Reds will be without a cast of regulars for this match-up. Steven Beitashour, one of the club’s top defenders, will miss the match after recently having abdominal surgery. He’ll be out for the next several weeks, at least. Armando Cooper (Panama), Raheem Edwards (Canada), Jonathan Osorio (Canada), Tosaint Ricketts (Canada), and Justin Morrow (USA) are all out on national team duty.
That means Toronto’s depth will have to show up in this one, and with just a few days of rest in between a pair of road games, it’ll be nothing short of a challenge for Greg Vanney’s side as the Reds head into the Purple Palace.
It does help, however, the Bruce Arena went young with the United States’ Gold Cup roster, meaning that Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley will both be available for Toronto in this one.
Player to Watch For
The big man for Toronto, of course, is Sebastian Giovinco. The Italian forward has a nice little track record of scoring against Orlando City, and with seven goals this season he’s tied with Altidore for the most on the club.
It just takes one run with Giovinco to make magic happen. Tommy Redding defended him really well the last time they met, so let’s see if Redding can recreate that night.
Prediction: Orlando City 2, Toronto FC 1
The odds favor Orlando in this one, I think. The Lions are coming off of a victory, more much more roster to work with, and also have the advantage of being at home with an extra day of rest against a team that just traveled here from Dallas.