Friday is upon us once again my friends, and that means that it’s almost time for another Orlando City game. This week sees the Lions head north of the border for the second league game in a row, as OCSC will take on Toronto FC.
Toronto is now 11 games into the Bob Bradley era. What differences if any, have you seen stylistically between this team and last year’s edition?
Tomas Karageorgos: The biggest difference I have noticed from this year’s team compared to last has been the amount of possession with the ball. Bob Bradley is a coach that likes to dictate play with the ball, rather than continuously press the opponent in the hopes of gaining possession. Granted, the team’s roster is much younger than it was last season with the emergence of numerous Homegrown Players that have solidified spots in the first team — although this has shown an increase of wasted possessions due to mistakes that can be prevented with more game experience. Overall, the squad can put together some good plays going forward, whether it’s moving up the flanks or breaking through the opposition’s midfield and back line with diagonal through balls, either in the air or on the ground.
Toronto has conceded the most goals in the Eastern Conference with 22. Is there a reason you can pinpoint for the Reds’ defensive struggles, or are things not so clear?
TK: The main reason for Toronto’s defensive struggles is because of the amount of turnover since last season, Chris Mavinga is currently the only defender on the roster that remains from 2021. Auro Jr. and Luke Singh are still on contract with the club, but they are out on loan for the year at Santos and FC Edmonton, respectively. Another reason why the Reds currently have the worst defensive record in the Eastern Conference is because of all the new faces that have been brought in: including CPL signings Lukas MacNaughton and Kadin Chung, along with Shane O’Neill and Designated Player Carlos Salcedo, who has missed a few matches, due to two red card suspensions, and being in health & safety protocol. Bradley has experimented with both a back three and back four this season — the lack of consistent formation in defense can be a factor as to why TFC has struggled, and has yet to keep a clean sheet this season.
Jozy Altidore left the team after seven seasons in Toronto. Who has stepped in to replace him?
TK: Jesús Jiménez was brought in from Górnik Zabrze, a club in Poland’s top division, and this transfer was immediately seen as the Jozy Altidore replacement. The Spaniard has impressed through the first 11 matches and is converting at an amazing rate — scoring seven goals on just 10 shots on target. He has been a breath of fresh air to watch, a true No. 9. Not only can Jiménez score, but he can also take defenders on and create chances out of nothing, all while providing excellent service to his teammates. It will be interesting to see how his role develops once Lorenzo Insigne arrives in Toronto.
Are there any injuries or suspensions keeping players unavailable for selection? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?
TK: Canadian midfielder Ralph Priso served a one-game suspension in Toronto’s match against Vancouver. He will be available for selection on Saturday. Salcedo was back in training this week and is expected to start. Ifunanyachi Achara, Chris Mavinga, and Jacob Shaffelburg remain questionable, while Homegrown Players Noble Okello and Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty are still out. Canadian midfielder Jonathan Osorio missed the past two matches, and it is unsure if he will be in the 18.
Predicted starting XI: Alex Bono, Shane O’Neill, Carlos Salcedo, Lukas MacNaughton; Luca Petrasso, Kosi Thompson, Ralph Priso, Michael Bradley; Jayden Nelson, Alejandro Pozuelo, Jesus Jimenez.
I normally am not one to make score predictions, but if TFC has some more bench depth than previous games I expect a 1-1 draw.
Thanks to Tomas for the great information on Toronto. Vamos Orlando!