Toronto FC return to the field on Saturday at 8:00 PM for their third match of the preseason. This time they take on USL Pro Champions, and future MLS expansion side, Orlando City SC. For Toronto the game is their second of the Walt Disney Pro Soccer Classic and they will look to rebound from their 3-1 defeat against the Columbus Crew earlier in the week.
Orlando are coming off a 1-1 draw in their opening game against the Philadelphia Union. Their lone goal in the game came from a former MLS player as Corey Hertzog found the back of the net in the first half. He is not the only player in their squad who will be familiar to MLS fans though as the team also includes the likes of Brad Rusin and Yordany Alvarez. They have already started to build their team with an eye towards joining MLS in 2015.
It should be another good test for Toronto as they continue to prepare for the season. Their 1-1 record in preseason is pretty much irrelevant at this point but what will be interesting to see if what Ryan Nelsen does with his top player's minutes. Against D.C. United last month we saw most of the projected starters complete 45 minutes of play, that number was increased to nearly 70 minutes for a number of key players against the Crew. With that bye week to open the season Nelsen could very well continue to stretch out the minutes for his key players as they work to improve fitness.
Improving the fitness of the squad will be the main focus of this game but they will also want to show improvements as a unit. Against the Crew, TFC had a lot of struggles breaking down the crowded midfield as it seemed that the likes of Michael Bradley, Jonathan Osorio, and Dwayne De Rosario are still learning how to play with each other. There were a number of instances where the player on the ball was looking to make one pass but his target was making a different run. That should improve with time and learning each-other's tendencies but it is something to continue to keep an eye on as preseason progresses.
Another thing to keep an eye on is which of the fringe players are getting minutes in these games. Last time out we saw Nick Hagglund get the start at right back as he seems to be in good position to stay with the team beyond preseason. We also saw Manny Aparicio off the bench in the second half of the game as he played a little over 30 minutes in the game. Kene Eze also saw time coming in for DeRo in the 75th minute.
With Jordan Hamilton carrying a small injury that has limited him in training the one notable omission from the lineup against the Crew was Dan Lovitz. While the other two draft picks both saw time on the field he was no where to be seen. Add in the fact that Eze has done well with his limited chances through two games and it might just make Lovitz the odd man out.
It is also worth noting that in the game against the Crew there was no minutes for Emery Welshman. Luke Wileman suggested early in the week that the Canadian may have been waived by Toronto FC but he was not completely confident in that and there is no confirmation from the club. If he goes another game without being seen it would really increase the suspicions around his future with this club.
Here is hoping for a reliable stream this time around so we actually get a chance to watch all of these things. Either way, TFC are about to move one game closer to that opener against the Seattle Sounders. Hopefully they continue to progress towards that and put in a good showing against Orlando.