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Preview: Toronto FC look to extend point streak to 3 games against Orlando City SC

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The Reds will try to keep their momentum going after picking up points in two straight matches

MLS: Toronto FC at New York City FC
Toronto FC will look for points in three straight matches on Saturday vs Orlando.
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

TORONTO, Canada—After a slow start to their MLS campaign, Toronto FC have managed to pick up points in consecutive matches for the first time this season heading into Saturday’s match where the Reds will try and make that three straight matches when they “visit’ Orlando City SC. While the Reds are tenants at Exploria Stadium for at least part of this season, Saturday’s match up will officially be a road match for the club.

Kick-off is scheduled for 7 PM EST and can be watched on TSN 1/4.

Last week, the Reds were able to recover and steal a point after falling behind at Yankee Stadium through Jacob Shaffelburg’s first goal of the year.

The Reds falling behind in the first place once again raised questions about the goalkeeping situation as Alex Bono was at fault in conceding the opener, something he owned up to after the match. After rolling with Bones for nine-straight games to start the year, head coach Chris Armas will have to make a decision on whether Quentin Westberg will make his first start of the season, something many Reds fans are now calling for, or if Bono, who has started every match this season, will once again be between the sticks.

Armas was able to call on some of his injured players last week as the squad continues to get healthy. While there are still pieces missing, the biggest name still being Alejandro Pozuelo, Armas should be able to call on the majority of his regulars once again.

According to the TFC head coach on Friday, while the reigning MVP won’t be available for Saturday’s contest, he will likely return sometime within the next week as he re-joined the club for training.

Jonathan Osorio, meanwhile, who has played just 133 minutes this year as a result of a thigh injury, was said to be close to a return last week and has not been listed on this week’s injury report. Armas confirmed to reporters on Friday that Oso will indeed return for Saturday’s match, and the Canadian international’s presence will be another big boost for Armas’ side.

It will be interesting to see what role, if any, newest Toronto FC signing Dom Dwyer will play on Saturday. Dwyer, who is listed as questionable with a thigh injury, was most recently with Orlando City SC before parting ways with the club at the end of last season and would relish the opportunity to end the Lions’ unbeaten run. He made his debut for the Reds last week in New York after coming off the bench and right away had an impact on the game. His status for this one is up in the air.

With Pozuelo still out through injury, the creator role will once again fall to Yeferson Soteldo. In his two starts, Soteldo has looked bright and shown what he can do. With every practice and game, Soteldo continues to get more and more comfortable with his teammates’ movement and vice-versa as he inches closer to being able to go a full 90 for the first time since arriving late April.

TFC’s opponents this week, Orlando City SC, are coming off of a 1-0 win against D.C. United. Through their first five matches this season, the Lions are one of three MLS sides who are currently unbeaten, picking up two wins and three draws along the way. A big part in picking up points in all their games has been the team’s stingy defence. Orlando has conceded just two goals this year—good for the joint best defensive record so far—and have kept a clean sheet on three occasions.

On the other side of the ball, the Lions have managed to score six times through the first five games of the season, with three of those goals coming in a 3-0 win over FC Cincinnati. Part of the reason the Lions offence may be suffering is due the absence of Brazilian forward Alexandre Pato.

The former AC Milan and Chelsea striker departed his MLS debut through injury. He’s expected to miss 3-6 weeks, and will be unavailable for selection on Saturday. Pato’s absence won’t necessarily mean a quiet night for the Reds backline as Lions Captain, Nani, can and will be a dangerous part of the Orlando attack.

Nani currently leads Orlando in goals with three, and as he has shown so far this year (and throughout his career) he can produce a moment of magic out of thin air. With Nani and fellow designated player Mauricio Pererya, who led the team in assists last year and scored his first goal of the season in last week’s win, there are still avenues for this Lions team to produce offence, which will be something for Armas to pay special attention to.

Reds fans can feel confident in the fact that this fixture has been fruitful for the Reds in previous years. TFC and Orlando have met in MLS action 12 times since the Lions entered the league. The Reds have come away with eight wins in those matchups and drawn twice, while scoring 26 goals over the course of the 12 matches. The two clubs didn’t match up in 2020, so it will be the first time the two sides are going head-to-head since 2019. In their two meetings in 2019, the Reds had a win (2-0 in Orlando), and battled to a 1-1 draw in Toronto, with Patrick Mullins scoring the lone goal for the Reds.

The last two games will have provided the team and fans with some optimism. The club has talked about using their win against Columbus as a restart on their season, and while last week in New York was by no means a pretty effort, it’s obvious that this Reds team is ready and capable of winning games in different ways, something that will be needed against Orlando.

Game Notes:

  • With his first MLS goal last week, TFC winger Jacob Shaffelburg earned himself a spot on the MLS Team of the Week. He is the first Red to be named to the squad this season.
  • Toronto FC have sent 20-year Jordan Perruza on loan this week to San Antonio FC, as the club is now well stocked in the forward department with the addition of Dom Dwyer. Chris Armas confirmed to media on Friday that Perruzza’s loan is a short stint and will re-join TFC II when he returns.
  • As always don’t forget to join our Twitter Spaces conversation pre- and post-game and share your thoughts along with other TFC fans. Follow WTR on Twitter to be notified when we’re live!

How to watch:

VS: Orlando City SC
Time: 7 PM EST
Watch: TSN 1/4