Orlando City returns to the pitch this Saturday to play Toronto FC in an “away” match at Exploria Stadium. The Lions look to get back to their winning ways following the international break against the local, Canada-based club. It’s probably weird for Toronto as well. We’re so close to having Orlando City playing soccer again, so let’s look at what the Lions need to do to “bring home” all three points “on the road.”
A Question of Forwards
As I mentioned in my Three Questions for Orlando City Coming Out of the International Break piece, Daryl Dike is back in town, but I wouldn’t expect him to start. Dike needs to re-acclimate to Pareja’s system after being at Barnsley and with the USMNT. Of course, if I had a striker like Dike in my lineup, he’d most certainly see the field at some point. That being said, Tesho Akindele scored the winning goal in the last match-up with Toronto, and has been a steady presence for the Lions with Dike away and Alexandre Pato out on injury. Orlando needs to start getting more goals as the season starts back up, and which striker or strikers get on the field will matter.
On the other side of the ball, Toronto FC is dealing the whole Jozy thing. Jozy Altidore has been training alone following a disagreement with Toronto Head Coach Chris Armas. Of course, Altidore is not the only forward on the team. There is another guy you may have heard of by the name of Dom Dwyer. He’s pretty familiar with Exploria Stadium. Toronto also has Ayo Akinola and Jacob Shaffelburg among others. While I don’t expect to see Altidore, Toronto has no lack of offensive weapons.
Which team gets the most production from the striker position will be a key factor on Saturday.
Orlando City will be without Pedro Gallese as he is on international duty. As our own Sean Rollins points out, that means Orlando City will be relying on Brandon Austin to fill in for El Pulpo. How well Austin does will be important, as will his communication with his defense. Orlando City has three excellent center backs, and will be solid in that respect, however communication is key for a defense. Our very own Topher Adams wrote that Orlando City might be overachieving in regards to expected goals. If the Lions can stay close to those metrics without Gallese, the odds favor Orlando City getting a result.
Moving out to the edges, the fitness and availability of both Ruan and João Moutinho will be important in helping to protect Austin in goal. Orlando City has generally done a good job pushing opponents wide and limiting good chances on goal. Kyle Smith will be able to start or sub for whichever fullback position needs the most help. After Smith, Orlando City will have to rely on Orlando City Homegrown, Michael Halliday.
A Quick Start
With both clubs coming back from time off during the international break, it will be important for the Lions to get the first goal and set the tone. Orlando City did that when the two clubs last met, with Akindele getting a header off Silvester van der Water’s cross in the 12th minute.
Tesho Akindele gives Orlando City SC the 1-0 lead pic.twitter.com/3QgwRWpnf1— Canada Soccer (@CanadaSoccerEN) May 22, 2021
Many of these players haven’t played a match in a few weeks, so legs might get a little heavy late in the game. Of course, as Tesho told us on The Mane Land PawedCast, the coaches have done a good job maintaining the players’ fitness during the break. Let’s hope he’s right, but let’s also hope he or another Lion can find the lead early.
That’s what I’m looking forward to this Saturday. Let me know what you think, and what other factors we should consider in the comments below. Vamos Orlando!