Welcome to your match thread for a Saturday afternoon match-up between Orlando City (3-3-3, 12 points) and Toronto FC (4-2-1, 13 points) at Orlando City Stadium (4 p.m., My65). It’s the first of two scheduled meetings between the Eastern Conference rivals this season, with the Lions making the return trip to BMO Field in Toronto on Saturday, Aug. 10.
The 2017 champions look like they’ve recovered from their season-long hangover in 2018. Losing a player the caliber of Sebastian Giovinco would cripple most teams but the addition of Alejandro Pozuelo appears to be an upgrade. Now Toronto is linked with USMNT defender Omar Gonzalez, as if things weren’t going well enough in Ontario, Canada in 2019.
Toronto leads the very lopsided all-time series, 7-2-1, and is 3-2-0 in Orlando. The teams split their season series last year. Orlando City captured a 2-1 win at home in James O’Connor’s first home game as head coach of the Lions on July 14, 2018. Chris Schuler and Dom Dwyer staked City to a 2-0 lead and Nick Hagglund ruined the shutout in the 94th minute off a Giovinco free kick delivery. The last meeting in Toronto saw the Reds get a late game winner in a 2-1 decision at BMO Field on Ryan Telfer’s 87th-minute goal. The goal ruined what was a pretty good road performance by the Lions.
Orlando was shredded by Toronto in a 3-1 win on July 5, 2017. Jozy Altidore and Giovinco combined to score Toronto’s three goals. Carlos Rivas gave Orlando a consolation goal. In the first meeting of 2017, Orlando out-possessed, out-shot, and out-passed the hosts, and played like the better team on the night. However, the Lions could not overcome a two-goal deficit and Giovinco’s first-half brace led Toronto to a 2-1 win.
The Lions got their first victory in the series on June 25, 2016 winning 3-2 at Camping World Stadium. Kaká scored from the spot in the 10th minute of stoppage time 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. The teams also drew 0-0 on Sept. 28 of that year, with Toronto able to fend off the Lions with 10 men over the final 20 minutes of the match.
In 2015, Toronto took home all nine points in the three meetings, 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.
Toronto is playing in only its third road match of the season, going 1-1-0 so far away from BMO Field. Orlando City is 2-2-1 at home after winning its last two outings in the purple palace. But extending that streak and getting over the .500 mark at Orlando City Stadium won’t be easy.
This series has been a contentious and physical one. There have been 44 cards issued in the 10 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.
If the Lions are going to take something from this game and win a third consecutive home match, they’ll have to starve Pozuelo of service and defend him in numbers. The 27-year-old Spaniard has been a human highlight reel in 2019. He’s already racked up four goals and five assists in just five MLS matches and he’s capable of both the spectacular and the downright cheeky. He doesn’t lack for confidence and he’s playing like it.
On the other end of the pitch, Orlando will have to find opportunities to put pressure on the Toronto defense, create odd-man opportunities in and around the penalty area, and not allow Michael Bradley to leave his mark on the game.
Jozy Altidore (hamstring) is expected to miss this game and that’s good, considering his track record against Orlando City. Other than that, Toronto FC is healthy. The Lions may get Alex De John (hamstring) back but Carlos Ascues (quad) has had a setback in recovering from his hamstring issue and will need more time.
Mandatory Match #Content
Here's your mandatory match content to get you prepped:
- 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.
Orlando City (4-3-3)
Goalkeeper: Brian Rowe.
Defenders: Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Lamine Sané, Ruan.
Midfielders: Will Johnson, Uri Rosell, Sebas Mendez.
Forwards: Nani, Dom Dwyer, Tesho Akindele.
Bench: Greg Ranjitsingh, Kyle Smith, Kamal Miller, Josué Colmán, Cristian Higuita, Sacha Kljestan, Chris Mueller.
Goalkeeper: Quentin Westberg.
Defenders: Justin Morrow, Chris Mavinga, Laurent Ciman, Auro.
Midfielders: Jonathan Osorio, Marky Delgado, Michael Bradley, Nick DeLeon.
Forward: Alejandro Pozuelo.
Forward: Jordan Hamilton.
Bench: Alex Bono, Ashtone Morgan, Eriq Zavaleta, Richie Laryea, Jay Chapman, Liam Fraser, Ayo Akinola.
Ref: Robert Sibiga.
AR1: Nick Uranga.
AR2: Gjovalin Bori.
4th: Christopher Penso.
VAR: Jorge Gonzalez.
AVAR: Alicia Messer.
How to Watch
Match Time: 4 p.m. ET.
Venue: Orlando City Stadium — Orlando, FL.
TV: My65 (local only).
Radio: 104.1 FM Real Radio (English), La Nueva 990 (Spanish).
Streaming: ESPN+, YouTube TV.
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Enjoy the match! Go City!