Another Friday has arrived, and with it brings the promise of a new challenge for Orlando City SC. This week, the Lions will look for revenge against Toronto FC after the Reds previously beat Orlando, 2-0 back in May. Orlando will now look to make it two wins from two when playing north of the border this year, and continue to close the gap on the last playoff spot in the process.
These two teams last met in the beginning of May. Three months later, how have things been going for Toronto?
Charlie O’Connor-Clarke: Things definitely haven’t been going as well as they should be. TFC has had a few great results in that time frame, including a 3-1 home win against New York Red Bulls and a dramatic 2-0 derby win vs. Montreal, but a few stinkers as well (including a brutal 3-1 loss to Houston a couple weeks ago). Losing a ton of key players during the Gold Cup hurt, but overall it’s been a frustrating few months as the team hasn’t quite played up to the standard they’re capable of.
The Reds are currently on 32 points and only sit one point below the New England Revolution, who occupy the seventh and final playoff spot. What do you think Toronto needs to do to finish the season above the line?
O’Connor-Clarke: The playoffs are absolutely an expectation for this team, especially given the three TAM signings they made in the summer window. Head Coach Greg Vanney has been saying all year he wants to play with wingers, and now he’s got two brand new wingers in Nicolas Benezet and Erickson Gallardo. This is where we see if that type of play is going to work for this club. Wing play is the difference between an Eastern Conference contender TFC and a playoff outsider.
What do you see as a key match-up for this Saturday’s game? What is a battle that Toronto absolutely needs to win?
O’Connor-Clarke: This will be a test of whether TFC’s revolving-door back line can properly neutralize Orlando’s attack. Nani and Tesho Akindele are obviously major threats, and the TFC center backs (no matter who lines up there — probably Omar Gonzalez and Chris Mavinga this week) have been prone to bone-headed mistakes on far too many occasions. If TFC can stay organized at the back they’ll be in business.
Are there any injuries, suspensions, or call-ups that will keep players unavailable for selection on Saturday? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?
O’Connor-Clarke: The only real injury concern right now is Erickson Gallardo, who still hasn’t got up to match fitness since joining the club a couple weeks ago.
Projected lineup: Quentin Westberg; Justin Morrow, Omar Gonzalez, Chris Mavinga, Auro; Michael Bradley, Marky Delgado; Nicolas Benezet, Alejandro Pozuelo, Jacob Shaffelburg; Jozy Altidore.
Predicted score: 2-2.
As always, big thanks to Charlie for the info on Toronto.