It’s the end of another work week, everyone, and that means it’s time to look ahead to Orlando City’s opponents this weekend. This Saturday the Lions will welcome temporary neighbors/Exploria Stadium tenants Toronto FC in the first match-up between the two teams since 2019.
Chris Armas is the new coach in Toronto after Greg Vanney was at the helm for six largely successful years. It’s still early, but how is the team different under Armas than Vanney?
Michael Singh: The team itself on paper is not that much different than what Greg Vanney was working with in recent years, minus of course the recent additions of Yeferson Soteldo, Kemar Lawrence, and Dom Dwyer, but there’s definitely a different sort of feel under Chris Armas. The former New York Red Bulls head coach is one who preaches a high-intensity, high-pressing, and high-energy style of play, which is polar opposite of Vanney’s more pragmatic approach.
In recent weeks, however, after a shaky start to the season, Armas has sort of reeled that approach back and is looking to find a nice balance between what Toronto FC has been accustomed to in the past — which is a slower, methodical build-up — and a ‘pressing team,’ so it’ll be interesting to see how that takes shape against Orlando.
Yeferson Soteldo was TFC’s big name signing during the off-season. How has he performed so far?
MS: Yeferson Soteldo in his two starts has impressed me. It’s quite clear that he has game-changing potential and isn’t afraid to take other players on, which is something this TFC team was missing. He can either get in behind using his pace, or he has the skill to come short, collect the ball, and beat the opposition on the dribble. He’s still very much settling into MLS, but at 23 years old, I believe he has the potential to be one of the best players in this league.
Orlando fans will recognize new Toronto striker Dom Dwyer from his several years as a Lion. How do you expect him to fit into the squad?
MS: I actually wrote an article about this, but to sum up, I believe Dom Dwyer will bring an added ‘bite’ to this Toronto FC team, something the club has been looking for. They want to become a tougher team to play against and I believe Dwyer fits in well with what Armas demands out of his players. Orlando fans are familiar with his goal scoring prowess, which is why he’ll be in contention for some starts, but with TFC already boasting a front two of Ayo Akinola and Jozy Altidore, Dwyer may have to settle for being one of the first names off the bench for this Toronto FC team, and that’s a pretty nice luxury to have if you’re Armas.
Are there any injuries or suspensions that will keep players unavailable for selection? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?
MS: Orlando is meeting Toronto FC at a difficult time because TFC are getting healthy — something they have not been able to say for the entire season thus far. Reigning MVP Alejandro Pozuelo is still questionable for this one, but there’s a chance he makes his season debut Saturday. Jonathan Osorio, meanwhile, who missed the last two TFC matches with a thigh injury, will also likely return, meaning there are only a few injuries that Toronto has to manage, most of which are to depth pieces.
Projected Starting XI (4-4-2): Quentin Westberg; Kemar Lawrence, Chris Mavinga, Omar Gonzalez, Richie Laryea; Ralph Priso, Michael Bradley, Yeferson Soteldo, Jonathan Osorio; Jozy Altidore, Ayo Akinola.
If Pozuelo can return for this one, I predict TFC may hand Orlando their first loss of the season, which won’t be an easy task. History is on Toronto’s side, however, with the Reds owning an 8-2-2 record all-time against our Florida compatriots, but as we all know, this is a completely different Orlando side. I’m expecting a really good match
Big thanks again to Michael for the refresher on Toronto. Vamos Orlando!