Over the past couple of months there are few teams in Major League Soccer who have been worse than Orlando City. They have won just twice since April, adding to that five losses and five draws.
But after a gutsy 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium this past weekend, Orlando will be hoping to turn their fortunes around further before the break for the Gold Cup. They get a chance to do so at home, where they have still only lost once this season.
Orlando will have at least one other advantage of Toronto when the two sides meet: a relatively untouched roster. Carlos Rivas is questionable due to injury, but otherwise there are no absences for Jason Kreis to deal with.
Waking the Red caught up with The Mane Land’s Michael Citro to find out more Orlando City heading into the game. Here is what we learned.
1. Only the one loss at home so far this season for Orlando - what can TFC learn from what New York City FC was able to do?
I’m not sure, really. NYCFC caught Orlando City’s back line and goalkeeper Joe Bendik on a bit of an off night and in the third game in nine days, coming back from San Jose. No one really used that as an excuse, and New York City was also coming back from a midweek game at Real Salt Lake, but it looked to be a factor. Having a David Villa on the team helps, and since you’ve got Sebastian Giovinco, you’ve kind of got that part covered, plus you’ve got other dangerous scorers with pace.
Honestly, I’m not sure Toronto should be learning much from New York City, so much as it should be the other way around.
2. When these clubs last met on May 3 it was billed as a top-of-the-table clash. Orlando has only won twice since then. Briefly, what has gone wrong?
Mainly it’s been an insane number of double game weeks and a lot of road games. When the teams first met, it was only Orlando City’s second road game. Since then, the Lions have played six additional road contests and in one of the home games, referee Ted Unkel wrongly sent off a player early in the match. And there was the small matter of Cyle Larin’s DUI arrest, which saw him miss three matches going through the Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health (SABH) program.
But, overall, I’d say the main thing has been a lack of attacking sharpness. Good build-up will often lead to nothing, a final ball will fail to split the defence, or a shot in a good area will be off target. You can put some of that lack of sharpness on Larin’s absence and part of it on tired legs and minds from playing three times in nine days or less on four occasions since the Lions visited BMO Field and seeing a lot more of the road over the last couple months.
3. Cyle Larin returned in your last match. How did he look and what is the feeling towards him right now in Orlando?
Cyle brought good energy and hustle to the game on Friday at RSL but there was some rust evident. He was a bit hampered by not having his usual strike partner, Carlos Rivas, who injured an ankle at Chicago and was replaced by Giles Barnes up top. Toward the end of the game, you could tell Larin hadn’t played in a couple of weeks as fatigue set in.
As for the feeling toward him, it’s a bit mixed. I think most people are relieved that his poor decision making didn’t lead to any casualties or property damage and are being supportive of him as he tries to atone for it. There is a small but vocal minority of people who think he should be cut from the team or punished far more severely. I have a feeling these are the first people who would beg for a second chance if they did something wrong. The thing about making bad decisions – like driving after drinking – is that consuming too much alcohol leads to them.
The important thing is that Larin learns and grows from this experience and possibly uses his celebrity status to warn others of the dangers of drinking and driving.
Projected starting XI:
Injuries: Carlos Rivas, ankle (questionable)
International call-ups: None
Score Prediction: Orlando City 1-2 Toronto FC
The Reds just have too much firepower and one of the more underrated defences in the league, plus the loss to Dallas over the weekend will have them motivated. I’m scared.