Welcome to your match thread for a Saturday night match-up between Orlando City (6-3-3, 21 points) and Toronto FC (2-8-2, 8 points) at BMO Field (7:30 p.m., FOX 35 Plus). It’s the third of the three scheduled meetings between the Eastern Conference rivals this season. With this week’s late policy change at the U.S.-Canada border, the match was switched to Toronto, as it was always the Reds’ home game. It’ll be Toronto’s first home match in more than a year due to previous international COVID-19 restrictions.
Toronto leads the very lopsided all-time series, 8-4-2, and is 4-1-2 against the Lions as the home, but that includes its only “home” loss in the series at Exploria stadium just a few weeks ago. The Reds are 4-0-2 against the Lions in Toronto.
The most recent meeting came June 19 in what was technically listed as a Toronto home match at Exploria Stadium. Orlando City built a 2-0 early lead on goals by Tesho Akindele and Nani, only to see Toronto tie the match by halftime on goals by Ayo Akinola and Jonathan Osorio. Junior Urso scored late to lift the Lions to a 3-2 victory. The teams first met this season on May 22 with Orlando City claiming a 1-0 win on Akindele’s goal.
The most recent Orlando road meeting with the Reds that actually took place in Toronto 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 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 1-2-1 at ‘home’ this season, which is to say at Exploria Stadium, and this will be the Reds’ first true home match of 2021. Orlando City is 3-2-1 as the away team in 2021 but 2-2-1 away from Exploria Stadium. That includes a 3-1 loss to the Chicago Fire in the last game, just 10 days ago. The loss to the Fire, combined with a 2-1 loss to the New York Red Bulls at home, has the Lions on their first two-game, regular-season losing streak since Oscar Pareja took over prior to the 2019 season.
The Reds are coming off an impressive 3-2 win over the New England Revolution in their last match — the team’s first since firing Chris Armas as head coach. Toronto built a commanding 3-0 lead but had to hold on for dear life to claim the victory, which was only the team’s second in 2021. That snapped the team’s six-game losing streak.
This series has been a contentious and physical one, despite Toronto having the better of it. There have been 55 cards issued in the 14 previous games, including four red cards.
Javier Perez is Toronto’s coach for the time being. Although not given the “interim” tag, he’s the man in charge until the Reds fill the position permanently. He’s 1-0-0 with a win over the top team in the Eastern Conference, so he’s done the job so far. Armas was fired on the heels of a six-game losing streak that culminated in a 7-1 loss to D.C. United on July 3. Two of those six losses were to Orlando City. While it’s fair to say that few coaches had to deal with as much adversity as Armas, things didn’t seem to be getting better for a team used to a lot of success under previous manager — and current LA Galaxy coach — Greg Vanney.
Nothing has changed with the game plan for Orlando City. The Lions will need to starve Alejandro Pozuelo of the ball and defend him with numbers, forcing Toronto’s attack into the wide areas. Unfortunately, the Reds have an excellent service provider out there in the form of Designated Player Yeferson Soteldo. So, Orlando’s fullbacks will need to be on their game. Orlando City will also need to deal with Michael Bradley, who has played well in the middle of the park.
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 hurt the Lions’ chances of doing that in the last match, despite the win.
Toronto has also been susceptible on set pieces this season, which is an area the Lions haven’t exactly excelled the last couple of seasons, but those opportunities may be there.
“We’re happy to return to competition and happy also to be able to go and compete in Canada,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said. “It’s a good opportunity for us to start getting back to normal in Major League Soccer, so we’re excited. At the same time, now with the complexity of the game for both clubs, it makes the competition more exciting. We’re happy, we’re preparing the players and the team so we can get a good result in Canada.”
According to the game notes for this match, Orlando City will be without Antonio Carlos, while Ruan, Joao Moutinho, and Alexandre Pato are listed as questionable (all with lower body injuries). In addition, Daryl Dike is still with the USMNT on international duty. Toronto FC will be missing Ifunanyachi Achara (ACL surgery), while goalkeeper Quentin Westberg (hand) is listed as questionable. The Reds will also be without several players on international duty, including Jonathan Osorio, Richie Laryea, Ayo Akinola, Eriq Zavaleta, and Kemar Lawrence.
Mandatory Match Content
- Our Intelligence Report provides more information about the Reds from Mitchell Tierney 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: Pedro Gallese.
Defenders: Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, Kyle Smith.
Midfielders: Mauricio Pereyra, Sebas Mendez, Junior Urso, Benji Michel.
Forward: Nani, Tesho Akindele.
Bench: Brandon Austin, Michael Halliday, Rio Hope-Gund, Joey DeZart, Uri Rosell, Andres Perea, David Loera, Chris Mueller.
Goalkeeper: Alex Bono.
Defenders: Justin Morrow, Chris Mavinga, Omar Gonzalez, Auro.
Defensive Midfielders: Marky Delgado, Michael Bradley.
Attacking Midfielders: Yeferson Soteldo, Alejandro Pozuelo, Tsubasa Endoh.
Forwards: Dom Dwyer.
Bench: Kevin Silva, Luke Singh, Julian Dunn, Ralph Priso-Mbongue, Noble Okello, Jordan Perruzza, Patrick Mullins, Jacob Shaffelburg, Jozy Altidore.
Ref: Marcos de Oliveira..
AR1: Andrew Bigelow.
AR2: Cory Richardson.
4th: Jon Freemon.
VAR: Jorge Gonzalez.
AVAR: Craig Lowry.
How to Watch
Match Time: 7:30 p.m. ET.
Venue: BMO Field — Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
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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