It’s the end of another week, which means that I’m back to give you the inside scoop on Orlando CIty’s next opponent. This Saturday sees Toronto FC come to town as the Lions try to make it three home victories on the trot. As such, I spoke with Charlie O’Connor-Clarke of SB Nation’s Waking The Red, and he was kind enough to bring me up to speed on this year’s Toronto FC team.
So, Alejandro Pozuelo. Four goals and five assists in only five games and 439 minutes of play. Suffice it to say he’s had quite the impact since his arrival in Toronto. What about him has impressed you the most?
Charlie O’Connor-Clarke: Pozuelo’s been as advertised, and then some. One of the most impressive things about him is that nobody seems able to definitively say if he’s right-footed or left-footed, because he seems to be just as good with both. He’s also got an incredible engine; he’s all over the pitch every game despite having a full season in Belgium already under his belt this year. What’s most impressive, though, is probably how quickly he’s meshed with TFC’s other players. He and Jonathan Osorio seem to be on the same page all the time (helps that Oso’s one of the team’s Spanish speakers), and the way Pozuelo has been able to unlock Jozy Altidore has been amazing — it really hurts to not have Jozy up there at the moment.
A familiar face for Orlando fans will be Richie Laryea, who was signed in the off-season after being released by Orlando. How has he done since joining the team?
O’Connor-Clarke: Laryea has kind of been eased into the side. It’s unclear what exactly his role is going to be here; it seems like he’s mostly been filling in at right back when Auro has been hurt. He’s been all right there — nothing to really write home about — but he’s been pretty steady. I thought he looked good in the match against Minnesota United, where he was able to get forward a bit. I’m not sure if he’ll start this weekend, but I’m also not sure if he brings all that much off the bench to make an impact late in the game. We’ll see if Greg Vanney wants to give him a shot against his former club.
For the most part it’s been smooth sailing for Toronto this season, with the biggest exception being last week’s loss to the Portland Timbers, who currently sit 10th in the West. What were your overall impressions of that game: simply a fluky blip or reason to be more concerned?
O’Connor-Clarke: It was a weird one. TFC were pretty stunted offensively, mostly because Pozuelo doesn’t yet have the same chemistry with Jordan Hamilton up top as he does with Altidore. It seemed like a bit of a throwaway game in some ways. The effort was lacking and they just felt dull. I really don’t think it’s indicative of what this team is, though. They played a very emotionally taxing game the week before against Minnesota and I think that kind of ride-or-die play is more like what this club will be this year. The defense is often a little sloppy, which it was again against Portland, but it’s uncharacteristic of TFC to not score goals.
Are there any injuries or suspensions that will keep players unavailable for selection this week? What is your score prediction and projected starting lineup?
O’Connor-Clarke: As I mentioned, Jozy Altidore is out for the next couple weeks with a hamstring issue. That’s the only major injury we know of, but this team seems to pick up knocks in training all the time.
Predicted lineup: Quentin Westberg; Justin Morrow, Chris Mavinga, Drew Moor, Auro; Michael Bradley, Marky Delgado, Jonathan Osorio, Nick DeLeon; Alejandro Pozuelo, Jordan Hamilton.
Score prediction: 2-2.
Thanks again to Charlie for that great insight into Toronto FC.