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Preview: Struggling Reds return home in search of a win

Toronto FC is now winless in four matches.

Sean Pollock/Waking The Red

TORONTO, Ont. - Toronto FC will be back in front of the Reds faithful hoping to put an end to a four-game slide in which they have failed to pick up even a single point. TFC will hope that a return to BMO Field will help the Reds pick up some much needed points against Orlando City SC. Kick-off is scheduled for 3pm EST and can be watched on TSN.

Last week’s controversial loss in Vancouver saw TFC’s winless streak extend to four games, their third losing streak of four or more games since the start of last season, and it leaves the Reds with just three wins through 11 matches so far this year. Admittedly, this losing stretch, albeit tough to watch, will be looked upon differently by the Reds faithful at least, as the club awaits the arrival of its off-season marquee signing, Lorenzo Insigne. In the meantime, Toronto will have to figure out how to get themselves out of this rut with the group that they currently have.

Injuries have certainly not made life easy for the team. Bob Bradley has had to tinker with his lineups through various parts of this season, with several players being unavailable through injury. Perhaps most crucially, is the lack of depth that the Reds have in midfield. That theme will continue going into this weekend, with the likes of Jonathon Osorio and Noble Okello both being unavailable through injury. Along with the pair of midfielders, the Reds will also be without Kadin Chung, Jakhele Marshall-Rutty, and Chris Mavinga.

Bradley will however get Ralph Priso back, who has now served his one game suspension, along with Carlos Salcedo and Ifunanyachi Achara, who have cleared Health & Safety Protocols. Salcedo’s return should mean the Reds can expect to field a more familiar backline with Shane O’Neill and Salcedo pairing up once again.

TFC’s opponents this weekend, Orlando City SC, are coming off of a busy week of games as well. Following a 4-1 loss to CF Montreal at the Stade Saputo in league play last weekend, the Lions secured their spot in the next round of US Open Cup thanks to a 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Union.

In MLS league play, Orlando sits in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, having collected five wins so far this season, thanks in part due to a strong road record in MLS. The Lions have dropped just one game in five road matches this season (two wins, two draws), and up until last week, had conceded just once on the road, including two clean sheets against the LA Galaxy and the Chicago Fire.

While the Lions have scored just 13 goals through 11 games this season, the Reds leaky defence will need to be wary of the attacking threats in the Orlando line. The Lions boast five players who have scored multiple goals this season (two goals), and have a deep pool of players that can create in the final third, with Mauricio Pereyra leading the way with five assists. In comparison, Toronto has three players who have scored two or more goals this season, and have heavily relied on Jesús Jiménez and his seven goals to provide much of the Reds’ offence.

Orlando Head Coach, Oscar Pareja, will have a relatively healthy lineup to pick from heading into this weekend. The Lions will be without Antonio Carlos and Silvester van der Water, with both players being ruled out due to injury, while forward Benji Michel is questionable. Pareja was able to rotate his squad for Orlando’s midweek clash and should be able to pick a relatively fresh lineup.

Toronto has not fared well against Orlando in recent matchups, with Saturday’s visitors having picked up at least one point in each of the last four matchups against Toronto, including seven of nine points in their three fixtures last season. The Reds’ last win against the Lions came back in 2019, where Toronto recorded a 2-0 victory in Orlando.


Game Notes

Opponent: Orlando City SC
Location: BMO Field, Toronto, ON
Time: 3 PM EST
Watch: TSN


Q&A with The Mane Land’s Ben Miller:

How has Orlando’s squad changed since the last encounter against TFC?

There have been three main departures in Nani, Daryl Dike, and Chris Mueller. The 3 big new faces are DP striker Ercan Kara, DP winger Facundo Torres, and U-22 Initiative player Cesar Araujo. Alexandre Pato is a semi-new addition as he’s been healthy and a big contributor this season after only logging 106 minutes across four games in 2021 due to injury.

What has been the highest and lowest point of the season thus far?

The high point would probably be a 2-0 road win over the Columbus Crew. There were signs pointing towards the Lions’ attack finally starting to gel and it was a fourth game undefeated on the road to start the season. It’s tough to pick a low point between 3-0 and 4-1 losses to the New York Red Bulls and CF Montreal respectively. I’ll go with the NYRB game since the loss came at home and Orlando didn’t muster a single shot on target all day. That game was absolutely brutal and is the worst I had seen the team play in quite some time.

Who is Orlando’s most impactful/important player at the moment?

Alexandre Pato has been very important so far. When playing well, he provides a passing range and ability with the ball at his feet that no one else on the team does. That also means that it’s even more conspicuous when he doesn’t have good games, which was the case against the Red Bulls and Montreal. He rebounded well in the U.S. Open Cup win over the Philadelphia Union on Tuesday though, and dropped deeper to help link the midfield to Orlando’s attackers. He has two goals and two assists in nine appearances and is definitely capable of more