Welcome to your match thread for a Saturday night match-up between Orlando City (3-1-3, 12 points) and Toronto FC (1-4-2, 5 points) at Exploria Stadium (7:30 p.m., FOX 35 Plus). It’s the second of three scheduled meetings between the Eastern Conference rivals this season, with the teams meeting again on July 17. Both tonight’s and the July 17 matches are considered “away” for Orlando, but they’ll both be played at Exploria Stadium barring a sudden policy change at the U.S.-Canada border, because COVID-19 international restrictions have Toronto staying in Central Florida for now.
Toronto leads the very lopsided all-time series, 8-3-2, and is 4-3-0 against the Lions in Orlando. The teams met just a few weeks back with Orlando City claiming a 1-0 win on Tesho Akindele’s goal.
The most recent Orlando road meeting with the Reds saw the Lions grab a point at BMO Field in a 1-1 draw — just Orlando’s second ever road result in the series — on Aug. 10, 2019. Benji Michel opened the scoring in the 69th minute but the Reds equalized off a scramble following a set piece in the 77th. The other match-up between the sides that season came on May 4, 2019, when the Reds walked out of Orlando with a 2-0 win on goals by Jonathan Osorio and Jay Chapman.
The teams split their season series in 2018. 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 Sebastian Giovinco free kick delivery. The 2018 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. That goal ruined what was a pretty good road performance by the Lions.
Toronto shredded Orlando 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 each gave OCSC leads in the game, 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.
Toronto is 1-0-1 at ‘home’ this season, which is to say at Exploria Stadium. Orlando City is 2-0-2 at Exploria Stadium in 2021 and 1-1-1 in road matches. The Lions are coming off a 2-1 road loss at the New York Red Bulls in their last match on May 29. It was Orlando’s first loss of the season and first time conceding more than once in a match, although one of those was on a direct free kick. Despite playing poorly, the Lions should have equalized, but Silvester van der Water’s golden opportunity was fired over the bar late. That loss snapped a team-best six-game unbeaten run to start the MLS season. Toronto has lost its last two games and is winless in three (0-2-1) after falling 2-1 at Columbus on May 29.
This series has been a contentious and physical one, despite Toronto having the better of it. There have been 49 cards issued in the 13 previous games, including four reds. That trend eased a bit in 2019, when there were only two cards issued in the two match-ups — one to each team in the second meeting. The sparks could reignite with former Lion Dom Dwyer signing with Toronto recently and Richie Laryea’s continued emergence as a fullback after a brief career in Orlando as a midfielder that didn’t quite pan out.
Chris Armas is Toronto’s new coach, taking over after Greg Vanney stepped down and relocated to Los Angeles. Armas would like his team to play a high pressing style like his former Red Bulls, and the Reds have played that way at times. Orlando will need to recognize when Toronto is pressing and deal with it more efficiently than the Lions did at New York.
The Lions will need to starve Alejandro Pozuelo of the ball and defend him with numbers. Orlando City will also need to deal with Michael Bradley, who has played well in the middle of the park of late, including in the game last month, when he was seemingly everywhere. Orlando will also want to limit shots to protect first-time starter Brandon Austin, who will step in to fill Gallese’s spot.
Offensively, Orlando will need to get in behind Toronto’s fullbacks and try to create odd-man attacking movements against the Reds’ center backs. They have shown this season that they can be particularly vulnerable in transition but Orlando didn’t create much down the channels in the May meeting and Ruan’s absence hurts the Lions’ chances of doing that. Toronto has also been susceptible on set pieces, which is an area the Lions haven’t exactly excelled the last couple of seasons, but those opportunities may be there, so Antonio Carlos or whoever else can get on the ball in the air will need to find the target.
“Excited to get back to the competition again, especially to play against a good rival in Toronto that we faced already a few weeks ago,” Oscar Pareja said in his Thursday press conference. “[We’re] trying to get the whole group together again after having players at their national teams, some players carrying injuries and things like that. We’re looking forward to the competition, especially this coming week that is full of games. We’re excited.”
Toronto FC will be missing Ifunanyachi Achara (ACL surgery), Julian Dunn (hip), and Yeferson Soteldo (thigh) according to the game notes for the match, which were turned in Friday. Additionally, Altidore seems to have been banished from the team. Orlando City is missing Alexandre Pato and Ruan to the dreaded lower body injury and Pedro Gallese and Sebas Mendez to international duty. Rodrigo Schlegel has been at home, where he’s just suffered the loss of his father. Daryl Dike has returned but Oscar Pareja cautioned that he’d be eased back into playing time. Nani returns from his two-game suspension and, for the first time this season, Uri Rosell’s name doesn’t appear to be on the (lack of) availability list.
Mandatory Match Content
- Our Intelligence Report provides more information about the Reds from Aasim Hashim from Waking the Red, SBNation’s Toronto FC blog.
- This week's PawedCast includes our key match-ups and final score predictions.
- Our Dave Rohe outlined his three keys to victory for Orlando City.
Orlando City (4-4-2)
Goalkeeper: Brandon Austin.
Defenders: Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, Kyle Smith.
Midfielders: Silvester van der Water, Andres Perea, Junior Urso, Mauricio Pereyra.
Forward: Nani, Tesho Akindele.
Bench: Mason Stajduhar, Michael Halliday, Rio Hope-Gund, Joey DeZart, Uri Rosell, Alexander Alvarado, Chris Mueller, Benji Michel, Daryl Dike.
Goalkeeper: Quentin Westberg.
Defenders: Kemar Lawrence, Chris Mavinga, Omar Gonzalez, Richie Laryea.
Defensive Midfielders: Auro Jr., Michael Bradley.
Attacking Midfielders: Jonathan Osorio, Alejandro Pozuelo, Marky Delgado.
Forwards: Ayo Akinola.
Bench: Alex Bono, Justin Morrow, Eriq Zavaleta, Nick DeLeon, Tsubasa Endoh, Noble Okello, Jacob Shaffelburg, Patrick Mullins, Dom Dwyer.
Ref: Armando Villarreal.
AR1: Logan Brown.
AR2: Peter Manikowski.
4th: Thomas Snyder.
VAR: Robert Sibiga.
AVAR: Kyle Longville.
How to Watch
Match Time: 7:30 p.m. ET.
Venue: Exploria Stadium - Orlando.
TV: FOX 35 Plus (local only).
Radio: FM 96.9 The Game (English), Acción 97.9 FM and 810 AM (Spanish).
Streaming: The match can be streamed on ESPN+ (out of market only) and locally on the LionNation app.
Enjoy the match. Go City!
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