TORONTO, Canada—For the first time since September 2020, it will be a match day for Toronto FC in Toronto on Saturday evening when the Reds host Orlando City SC at BMO Field. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 PM EST and can be watched on TSN1 and TSN4.
There has been plenty of good news for the Reds over the last two weeks, and the club will hope to use that positivity on Saturday night. In the last two weeks, the Reds snapped their six-match losing streak, had interim head coach Javier Perez and designated player Yeferson Soteldo named to the MLS team of the week, seemingly have resolved the Jozy Altidore situation, and the club was finally able to announce that they will be hosting their first match in 10 months at BMO Field and do so while hosting seven thousand Reds faithful.
Interim Head Coach Javier Perez will have to make some lineup decisions heading into Saturday night. With five Reds players currently away on international duty at the Concacaf Gold Cup, it means Perez will have a depleted squad to pick from to match up against Orlando City. Fortunately, the Reds did not add any new names to the injury list, with Ifunanyachi Achara (ACL injury) the only player currently unavailable. Quentin Westberg, who has been out with a hand injury, has been listed as questionable.
Along with Soteldo, who scored his first Reds goal and will be making his BMO Field debut, and Alejandro Pozuelo, both of whom had strong outings against New England, Perez may even have a third designated player to call upon this weekend, with Altidore back in the mix. The American striker is likely to be named to the bench to start after not having played a competitive match in almost two months, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Altidore get a run out, with Dom Dwyer and Patrick Mullins being the only other out-and-out strikers in the squad.
Jozy is back from exile and in a #TFCLive uniform again. what happens next will help shape the narrative not only for his future, but what happened between he and Armas.— Tej Sahota (@boatical) July 14, 2021
my latest for @WakingtheRed on why there’s pressure in being the last man standing:https://t.co/CZctBs75gv
Orlando will be looking to bounce back against the Reds. After a stellar June for The Lions where the club picked up three out of a possible three wins (including a 3-2 victory over the Reds), Orlando has faltered in July and have failed to pick up points in their last two matches, the first time the club has lost back-to-back matches since 2019. OCSC dropped a 2-1 decision to the New York Red Bulls and lost 3-1 to the Chicago Fire last week.
Despite recent results, Orlando still sits second place in the East and fifth overall in the Supporters’ Shield race. The Lions will also have confidence from their recent results over Toronto FC. While the Reds hold the historical advantage in this matchup with eight wins, in the first two matches between these clubs this season, Orlando has picked up all six points, scoring four goals and conceding just twice.
Orlando City will be without the services of Daryl Dike who’s currently with the USA at the Concacaf Gold Cup. Striker Alexander Pato, whom the Reds have not had to face so far this year, along with João Moutinho and Ruan are all listed as questionable. Whether Pato plays on Saturday evening or not, there will be plenty of firepower for OCSC with Nani, who has a club-leading six goals, and Tesho Akindele, who has three goals and four assists so far this year, to lead the line.
Orlando will also welcome a key piece of their defence back as goalkeeper Pedro Gallese is expected to take his regular spot in goal after coming back from Copa America duties with Peru. Prior to his departure with Peru, Gallese was a rock in The Lions net, conceding just four times in seven games.
The last time these clubs met, it was Orlando who walked away with all three points through an 84th minute winner by Júnior Urso. The biggest takeaway in that game was a trend that was following the Reds at the time - early goals.
Orlando has scored six goals in the first 15 minute of games, three of those coming against the Reds. The Lions have been extremely successful in scoring early and keeping leads and the return of Gallese will be a big boost to their defensive efforts. Orlando has a 5-1-1 record when they do score first, while the Reds have managed to gain just one point when they do go behind (0-7-1). While it is a cliche, the first goal in this game will be crucial if the Reds want to pick up three points.
The Reds defensive record has been heavily scrutinized and rightly so. The club has conceded the most goals in the league with 29 and the next closest team, San Jose, has conceded 22. It’s not a secret that the biggest piece of the Reds game that Perez will have to clean up is the number of goals and how the goals have been conceded. It’s not something that will be fixed overnight, but their last outing against the New England Revolution has shown that this club still has the quality to score goals and lots of fight left in them.
This is a team with a lot of experience, and it’s not time to write them off. With their return to BMO field in front of the Reds faithful for the first time since March 2020, TFC are primed and ready to start their climb back up the Eastern Conference standings.
Opponent: Orlando City SC
Kick-off: Saturday, July 17th at 7:30 PM EST
Watch: TSN 1, TSN 4
Location: BMO Field, Toronto, ON