Orlando City hosts Toronto FC in the final game before an international break kicks in and everyone gets some much-needed rest. The two teams last met back on May 3 in a match the Lions could have taken at least a point from but left BMO Field with empty pockets after Cyle Larin misfired on a couple of golden chances.
The Reds have remained red hot since that game, although they are coming off a 3-1 loss to FC Dallas over the weekend. Toronto is a bit depleted through injury and several international call-ups. However, we’re not going to waste any of our emotions on feeling bad for a team that’s got both Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco.
Here to help us learn more about the Reds 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 one of the league’s deepest rosters. With a quick turnaround for both teams, does Toronto’s depth advantage over Orlando outweigh the travel factor?
Mitchell Tierney: Ordinarily, maybe, but Toronto FC isn't looking nearly as deep anymore with a number of international absences and a key injury to Steven Beitashour (more on this later). The fullback positions have been particularly affected, something that was on clear display against FC Dallas this past weekend. With Justin Morrow in USMNT camp and Raheem Edwards with Canada, Toronto FC is down to its third option at left back. Supersub Tosaint Ricketts is also with Canada, meaning Toronto won't have his goals off the bench. The midfield corps is also thinner with Jonathan Osorio and Armando Cooper joining Panama and Canada, respectively. Toronto FC can still field a very competitive roster, largely thanks to the United States not calling Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley. However, it certainly won't be as good or as fresh as usual for Toronto, and the ridiculous recent travel schedule really seems to be catching up with them.
Speaking of depth, how does Steven Beitashour’s abdominal surgery affect the team?
MT: Given some of the names on Toronto FC's roster, this may come as a bit of a surprise, but Steven Beitashour is probably top three in terms of players the club can't afford to lose. His right back position is the Achilles heel of this team if there is one — it is the only place in the 11 where the Reds don't have at least one other proven option. Right now, Toronto FC seems to be weighing a pair of options as they wait for the news on Beitashour. Tsubasa Endoh, Toronto's ninth overall pick in 2016, has been playing the role when Beitashour is away. It hasn't really worked, as Endoh's talents are better suited to playing more central and further up the field. This past weekend against FC Dallas saw Toronto FC play 2017 third rounder Oyvind Alseth at right wingback, and the Norwegian out of Syracuse did well in his first MLS start. More than likely, however, Toronto FC does some shopping if Beitashour is out long-term.
Saturday’s loss to Dallas was only the second in 12 games (9-2-1) for the Reds. Is this kind of success sustainable in a league with the parity of MLS and if so, does that also mean the Chicago Fire can’t possibly keep up their torrid pace?
MT: It seems highly unlikely that Toronto FC will be able to replicate their first half of the season. The analytics appear to show a Toronto FC team that is due for regression at some point this year, especially in terms of their shooting percentage. The inevitable injuries and absences that are currently taking place will only make things worse. In a salary cap league, MLS teams can be deep, but only so deep as the aforementioned Beitashour situation proves. Chicago rates a bit better analytically, but one would assume teams start to figure them out soon as well. Whether they keep their current pace up or not, however, I do expect one of these two to win the Supporters' Shield this year.
What injuries/suspensions/international duty is Toronto facing and what is your projected starting XI and predicted final score?
MT: Injuries: Steven Beitashour (abdonimal) and Nick Hagglund (knee) are out.
International Duty: Jonathan Osorio, Tosaint Ricketts, Raheem Edwards (Canada); Justin Morrow (USA); Armando Cooper (Panama).
Projected Lineup: Alex Bono; Chris Mavinga, Jason Hernandez, Eriq Zavaleta; Ashtone Morgan, Michael Bradley, Marky Delgado, Victor Vazquez, Tsubasa Endoh; Jozy Altidore, Sebastian Giovinco.
Final Score: 2-1 Toronto FC.
Big thanks to Mitchell from Waking the Red for stopping by and giving us a bit of a scouting report on Toronto FC.