Orlando City has had time to rest up and lick its wounds following two straight defeats. After a 10-day break in between games, the Lions will hit the road (for real this time) when they take on Toronto FC tomorrow at BMO Field.
In order to make sure we’re all up to date on Toronto, I spoke with Mitchell Tierney, one of the editors over at SBNation’s Waking the Red. Mitchell was kind enough to give us some great insight into TFC.
Toronto fired Chris Armas after a 7-1 loss to D.C. United, after which the Reds promptly turned around, went on the road and beat the best team in the Eastern Conference in its own building. How do you interpret that win? Was it the new manager bounce, the system employed by Javier Perez, a little bit of both, or something else entirely?
Mitchell Tierney: I think it is too early to tell. I do think Javier Perez lined up his team in a way far more suited to their abilities than Chris Armas did during the majority of his tenure. This is undoubtedly an incredibly talented roster, and it didn’t hurt that Designated Players Yeferson Soteldo and Alejandro Pozuelo were starting together for the first time. But it is just one win and a game where they still looked very shaky at times despite going up 3-0 early on in the game. It was a good win without question, but they are going to have to show a lot more defensively if they are to get themselves back in the playoff picture.
This is also going to be a tough stretch coming up in terms of player availability. They likely have four starters missing out through Gold Cup duty for at least this month, and 38% of the team’s goals this season between Jonathan Osorio and Ayo Akinola will be representing Canada. So it was definitely a win to build on, but it will be hard to know where they will go from here.
After the performance Toronto put on to get that win over the New England Revolution, do you think Javier Perez will continue as the interim coach until a permanent solution is found, or do you see Toronto management going in another direction?
MT: Without question, Javier Perez has bought himself another few games with how the club performed against New England. But after the way things went with Armas, I don’t think the team is going to rush into anything in the short term. I think they evaluate on a game-by-game basis and if Perez can keep putting up good results then evidently he will remain coach. Management has said they don’t want to give him that “interim” tag just yet so as not to put too much pressure on him. I think they were really prepared to give Armas a long runway to integrate his new system so his replacement really, really wasn’t in the plans. But at the end of the day, they had no other choice, with the amount of money invested in this roster, the results just simply had to be better.
With Armas gone, do you think that increases the possibility of Jozy Altidore returning from the wilderness and playing for Toronto again? Or has that ship sailed regardless of who’s coaching the team?
MT: I think it is definitely huge for the club. Much has been written about Altidore’s contract and declining play and how Toronto FC would probably be better served if that Designated Player spot was taken by someone else. With that being said, having him set out completely away from the team was literally the worst-case scenario. Even when he is injured, something that has unfortunately been frequent in recent seasons, Altidore has been a great servant to the club and his winning mentality is infectious, especially amongst the club’s young players.
Especially with Ayo Akinola out at the Gold Cup, Toronto FC needs what Altidore can do in front of the net as quickly as possible. Even with Akinola, the Reds have only scored 16 goals this season in 12 matches. Both Patrick Mullins and Dom Dwyer are decent bench options but have yet to show themselves as consistent goal threats in Toronto FC colours. Altidore is undoubtedly still the most talented and dangerous goal threat on the roster, so if he can return anywhere near his old form it will be a massive and much-needed boost for Toronto FC.
Are there any injuries, suspensions, or call-ups that will keep players unavailable for selection? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?
MT: For once, Toronto FC is almost completely healthy, but they do have a lot of players missing at the Gold Cup. Akinola, Richie Laryea, and Jonathan Osorio are all with Canada, Kemar Lawrence is playing for Jamaica and Eriq Zavaleta with El Salvador. That’s arguably four starters missing for the Reds through international duty.
Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Alex Bono; Chris Mavinga, Luke Singh, Omar Gonzalez, Auro; Michael Bradley, Marky Delgado; Yeferson Soteldo, Alejandro Pozuelo, Tsubasa Endoh; Dom Dwyer.
Score: 2-1 Orlando City SC.
Big thanks again to Mitchell for the update on Toronto. Vamos Orlando!