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Match Preview: Toronto FC return to MLS action against Orlando City SC

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The Reds look to snap a two-game winless streak and look to even up the season series.

MLS: Toronto FC at Orlando City SC
Orlando City defender Antonio Carlos (25) kicks the ball away from Toronto FC defender Auro (96) at Orlando City Stadium.
Matt Stamey-USA TODAY Sports

TORONTO, Canada—After a nearly three week hiatus, Toronto FC are back in action at Exploria Stadium as they ‘host’ Orlando City SC on Saturday night. Kick-off is scheduled for 7:30 PM EST and can be watched on TSN 1 & 4.

Much has been made of the Reds slow start under Chris Armas. But after a nearly three week break, the Reds will want to forget the past and hit reset on their season, starting on Saturday. That of course, is easier said than done, considering the hole that Reds have managed to dig themselves into by accumulating just five points through seven matches.

TFC will be getting at least one key player back for Saturday’s tilt. Alejandro Pozuelo, who had been unavailable through injury the first few weeks of the season, made his season debut against Columbus in Toronto’s last outing. It’s no secret the game changing ability that Pozuelo has, so his inclusion to the squad will be a massive boost for an offence that has scored eight goals through seven games so far.

While the club deals with the situation surrounding Jozy Altidore, striker Ayo Akinola will likely be the player to benefit most with Pozuelo’s return to the starting lineup and will surely be looking to add to his tally after opening his season account against Columbus on May 29.

While Pozuelo’s return will be a big boost, Reds faithful will continue to have to wait to see Pozuelo and newly acquired Yeferson Soteldo on the pitch. Soteldo was unavailable for the club’s last match against Columbus and has been ruled out for four to six weeks with a hamstring injury. Like with Pozuelo, the club will continue to take a cautious approach with the Venezulan’s return, and according to Armas on Friday, Soteldo is still a couple weeks away.

Toronto’s opponents come into Saturday night’s match up looking to bounce back from their last outing. Orlando got their season underway by picking up points in six straight matches and conceding just two goals. Heading into the international break, the Lions saw that run come to an end after suffering a 2-1 defeat to the New York Red Bulls in their last outing.

The Reds have already seen Orlando once this season already. Orlando picked up all three points during their last encounter under a month ago, through an early goal by Canadian striker Tesho Akindele. The 1-0 win last month marked the Lions third ever victory over the Reds and the first time that Orlando picked up all three points in this matchup since 2018.

While Orlando is in a similar boat to the Reds in terms of goal scoring having scored the same number of goals as TFC through seven matches, they have relied on stellar defence up until now, as the Lions are getting some more help up front. Orlando will welcome back two of its stars back into the starting lineup who weren’t available when these clubs met last month. Club captain Nani, and U.S. international Daryl Dike will both be available for Saturday’s re-match.

The Portuguese international, Nani, has a club leading three goals five matches but has missed out on his club’s last two matches through suspension. While Dike returns to the club full of confidence following a successful loan spell at English club Barnsley where he scored nine times in 21 matches with the Championship side. Even with Alexandre Pato still unavailable through injury there are plenty of weapons that OCSC head coach Oscar Parjea can call upon and that TFC will have pay special attention too.

Orlando’s defensive ability has been a big part of the success that sees the club sit in third place in the Eastern Conference. The Lions have conceded just four goals through seven games which has included a league leading four clean sheets for OCSC goalkeeper Pedro Gallese.

As the Reds will have experienced first-hand, Orlando can be a tough group to break down. Ensuring that the Reds don’t go down early as they did in their first matchup of the season will be key if Armas’ side are to pick up all three points on Saturday.

General Manager Ali Curtis and skipper Michael Bradley backed up their head coach heading into Saturday night’s match and reiterated the growing pains that come with having a new head coach. While growing pains may be part of the process, Chris Armas and his squad are going to have to start picking up wins in a hurry if they plan on playing meaningful matches late into this summer and the fall, starting with Saturday’s tilt against Orlando.


How to watch:

Opponent: Orlando City SC
Time: 7:30 PM EST
Watch: TSN 1 & 4