Orlando City and Toronto FC have combined for just one win since these two teams met back on May 18, with the Reds taking just six points in their last eight matches. Neither squad is in a good place as City and TFC sit ninth and 10th in the East, respectively. For the reigning champions, it’s a bit more disappointing than Orlando’s depressing run. Both teams need a victory in the worst way Saturday night.
It’s been a few months since these teams last met. What has changed for Toronto since mid-May?
Charlie O’Connor-Clarke: Pretty much all that’s changed for Toronto is that expectations have dropped. The team has continued to struggle since the Concacaf Champions League, and as a result, finds itself near the bottom of the table. There’s still a sizable chunk of the lineup missing, and pretty much nothing else has seemed to go right for this team the past couple months. By now, people have started doubting that the Reds are likely to ever turn this season around. Fans have long since accepted there won’t be any Supporters’ Shield defense, and they’re starting to imagine what another year without the playoffs might be like.
The Reds have struggled even with most of their key pieces in action with just one win since their last meeting with Orlando. What has the team struggled most with and how can it get back on track?
CO: The club’s main problem right now seems to be confidence, or a lack thereof, especially among defenders. It’s led to poor organization and sloppy, desperate defending which has often resulted in players out of position or poor goals. Even in midfield and attack, there are too many moments when players seem to overthink things and play an unnecessarily difficult pass that often goes awry. Toronto needs to get back to basics and have some things start going right in order to regain some confidence.
High-profile signing Ager Aketxe is returning to Spain. How is Toronto approaching this transfer window with space available? Can a new signing fix this team?
CO: It’s unfortunate that Ager Aketxe didn’t work out in Toronto, but the Reds had almost no cap space and he didn’t seem to be meshing with MLS. They won’t gain too much relief from dealing Aketxe, since it looks likely they’ll be loaning him out for now (and thus only regaining whatever portion of his salary Cadiz pays). Still, TFC could definitely do with a couple utility/depth signings. The past two years, they’ve brought in the likes of Armando Cooper, Tosaint Ricketts, and Nico Hasler, all of whom came in mid-season and had a lot of success down the stretch. That’s probably the level of player TFC will be looking at acquiring in this window, perhaps just to shake things up a little bit.
What injuries/suspensions will keep players out this weekend and what is your projected lineup and predicted final score?
CO: Jozy Altidore, Drew Moor, Auro, and Jason Hernandez are all guaranteed to miss out, and it’s possible that Victor Vazquez may not be fit either. So, it’ll be another patchwork lineup most likely:
Alex Bono; Justin Morrow, Chris Mavinga, Nick Hagglund, Gregory van der Wiel; Jonathan Osorio, Michael Bradley, Marky Delgado, Nicolas Hasler; Sebastian Giovinco, Jordan Hamilton
Predicted score: 2-2.
Thanks again to Charlie for taking the time to answer some questions about the team north of the border.