Welcome to your match thread for tonight’s match-up between Orlando City (6-3-1, 19 points) and Toronto FC (12-6-1, 7 points) at BMO Field (8 p.m., TV27). It’s the first of two scheduled meetings between the Eastern Conference rivals this season, with the Reds making the return trip to Orlando on Saturday, July 14.
The defending champions are off to a slow start due to focusing on Concacaf Champions League in the early part of the season, but also due to several key injuries. But make no mistake, the Reds are perhaps the league’s deepest team and Toronto is a wounded and cornered animal right now. Don’t just look at the absences of Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco (and other starters). There must be the proper respect shown by Orlando City tonight against a team it has beaten only once in eight outings and never at BMO Field, or the lads in purple will leave Canada disappointed again.
Toronto leads the very lopsided all-time series, 6-1-1 and Orlando is 0-3-1 in Toronto. The most recent meeting saw the Reds rip Orlando to shreds in a 3-1 win at Orlando City Stadium last July 5. Altidore and Giovinco combined to score Toronto’s three goals. Carlos Rivas gave Orlando a consolation goal in what was just the Lions’ second home loss of last year in league play.
In the first meeting of 2017, Orlando out-possessed, out-shot, and out-passed the hosts, and ultimately was the better team on the night. Unlucky for the Lions, however, they could not overcome a two-goal deficit and Giovinco’s first-half brace led Toronto to a 2-1 win.
The Lions got their only victory in the series on June 25, 2016 winning 3-2 at Camping World Stadium. Kaká scored from the spot in the 110th minute of stoppage to win it. Cyle Larin and Adrian Winter staked OCSC to leads, only to see Jordan Hamilton and Justin Morrow equalize, until the captain’s late winner. The Reds took the second 2016 match-up in Orlando with a 2-1 victory, scoring in the 86th minute through Altidore. Tosaint Ricketts gave Toronto an early lead but the Lions fought back on a Larin goal
In 2015, Toronto took home all nine points, beating Orlando by a combined score of 11-1. The final meeting of 2015 was a 5-0 massacre, with Orlando finishing the match with nine men. Toronto won the first-ever meeting, 2-0 on April 26. Giovinco’s hat trick led the way to a 4-1 drubbing of the Lions on Aug. 5 in the second match-up, with Luke Boden scoring Orlando’s only goal. Collen Warner also scored for Toronto.
If you’re new to this series, it’s generally been a contentious and physical one. There have been 39 cards issued in the eight previous games, including four reds. That said, this has never felt like a true rivalry, despite having all the usual flash points that would lead to one. This is likely because Toronto has owned the scoreboard in the series.
Injuries will play a huge role tonight. As we found out earlier today, the Lions will be without striker Dom Dwyer, who trained on his own this week but we were told he was following his own training program and there was no indication of injury. Dwyer also didn’t appear on the league injury report. Orlando City is 6-1-0 with Dwyer in the lineup this season and 0-2-1 without him. Right back Scott Sutter (lower body injury) is listed as day-to-day but isn’t likely to play after training off to the side all week, and center back Jonathan Spector (concussion) remains out. Yoshimar Yotún (yellow card suspension) will also miss the match.
Jason Kreis could stay with the 4-2-3-1 by replacing Dwyer with Stefano Pinho, or Chris Mueller, the latter perhaps giving Josué Colmán an opportunity to start. Or we could see a return to the 4-4-2, with Uri Rosell at the base of the diamond — a role for which he was signed. This lineup could work with the re-insertion of RJ Allen at right back and either moving Will Johnson forward to the right side of the diamond (pushing Chris Mueller into a forward position) or starting Colmán — who played well last weekend. Justin Meram would likely play on the left, with Sacha Kljestan on the top of the diamond, below a pairing of Mueller and Pinho. Alternately, Meram could move back to a striker spot but that might mean having to start Richie Laryea on the left.
The Reds will be without Giovinco (red card suspension), Altidore (foot surgery), Nick Hagglund (hamstring), Drew Moor (quad), Nicolas Hasler (quad), and Justin Morrow (calf). In addition, Eriq Zavaleta (quad) is listed as questionable.
With Chris Mavinga recently returned to the lineup, Greg Vanney could move Michael Bradley out of his stopgap role on the back line and back into the central midfield, where he has been one of the league’s best performers over the last few seasons. Toronto will look to replace the offense of Giovinco and Altidore with some combination of Jay Chapman, Ager Aketxe, Victor Vazquez, Marky Delgado; Jonathan Osorio, and Tosaint Ricketts.
With so many regulars out on both sides, it will be interesting to see how the two coaches approach this match. Vanney will pull out all the stops to try to avoid losing a third straight match, while Kreis could play this road match conservatively to try to steal points on the road on the heels of Sunday’s loss.
Mandatory Match #Content
Here's your mandatory match content for tonight:
- Our Intelligence Report provides more information about the Reds from Charlie O’Connor-Clarke, the managing editor of SB Nation’s Toronto FC blog, Waking the Red.
- This week's PawedCast includes our key match-ups and final score predictions, plus our exclusive interview with Orlando Pride star Alanna Kennedy.
- Our Guilherme Torres writes that a win over Toronto FC could enable Orlando City to make a strong statement to the league.
Orlando City (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Joe Bendik.
Defenders: Mohamed El-Munir, Amro Tarek, Lamine Sané, Will Johnson.
Defensive Midfielders: Oriol Rosell, Cristian Higuita.
Attacking Midfielders: Justin Meram, Sacha Kljestan, Chris Mueller.
Forwards: Stefano Pinho.
Bench: Earl Edwards Jr., Chris Schuler, RJ Allen, Dillon Powers, Richie Laryea, Tony Rocha, Josué Colmán.
Goalkeeper: Alex Bono.
Defenders: Chris Mavinga, Eriq Zavaleta, Gregory van der Wiel, Auro.
Defensive Midfielder: Michael Bradley.
Midfielders: Ryan Telfer, Victor Vazquez, Jay Chapman, Jonathan Osorio.
Forward: Jordan Hamilton.
Bench: Clint Irwin, Jason Hernandez, Liam Fraser, Mariano Miño, Ager Aketxe, Tosaint Ricketts, Marco Delgado.
Ref: Allen Chapman.
AR1: Nick Uranga.
AR2: Andrew Bigelow.
4th: Fotis Bazakos.
VAR: Silviu Petrescu.
How to Watch
Match Time: 8 p.m. ET.
Venue: BMO Field — Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
TV: WRDQ TV27 (local only).
Radio: 104.1 FM Real Radio (English), La Nueva 990 (Spanish).
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