Toronto FC is stumbling again, looking shaky in a 1-1 draw with Philadelphia last weekend and having not won in two weeks. Now, as this homestand continues, they have a chance to make things right again versus an opponent that seems ripe for the picking in Orlando City SC.
The Reds have an opportunity to make up ground in the race for the Supporters' Shield on Wednesday, with no other first place contender in action. A win would put them in sole possession of second place in MLS - first in the Eastern Conference - and just two points behind leaders FC Dallas. This midweek matchup is Toronto's game in hand, and if they truly do have designs on first place they'll need all three points from it.
After meeting a pair of difficult teams in New York Red Bulls and Philadelphia for their past two games, the Reds now come up against an Orlando side that's in a rut. They have the worst defensive record in MLS, with 57 goals against - more than any other team - and are on a run of three straight losses, conceding four goals in each.
Although the two teams have split their meetings this season (both played at Orlando's Citrus Bowl Stadium), the Lions have just two road wins all year. They have struggled defensively, particularly in midfield, and they have the perfect weaknesses for TFC's attack to pick apart.
That's not to say Orlando is completely without hope, though. They have some serious playmaking threats in Canadian dynamo Cyle Larin and Brazilian designated player Kaka. Both players can create a lot in the attacking third and could cause trouble for the Reds. At the other end, there's always former TFC keeper Joe Bendik to beat, who's been very busy this season - and not particularly successful.
The Reds can certainly score, especially against a thin, demoralised team like Orlando. Jozy Altidore should be able to rip through their back line, as long as the midfield is clicking and can feed him well.
On the injury front for Toronto, superstar Sebastian Giovinco is once again listed as questionable. Several reporters have said he was training individually this week after returning from Italy, but likely still won't be able to feature on Wednesday - except potentially off the bench as a last resort. Coach Greg Vanney seems hopeful that he will return on the weekend against DC United.
In better news, striker Tosaint Ricketts has been cleared to play after missing a couple weeks with a groin strain. He may not start just yet, but would be an excellent option to come on in the second half. Jay Chapman is also reportedly available, and Armando Cooper is eligible to return after his one-game suspension. He seems likely to start, as his attacking ability paired with a willingness to drop back on the wing would add a lot to TFC's midfield.
Keeper Clint Irwin was solid against Philadelphia, and has probably won his starting spot back from Alex Bono, at least for now.
This is effectively a must-win game for the Reds, simply because there's no reason they shouldn't win. Orlando is a team that TFC are fully capable of ripping apart, but with some shoddy performances of late it's not a sure thing. Winning their game in hand would be huge for the standings race, and it would also guarantee the first home playoff game in franchise history.
Projected Starting XI