Preview: Toronto FC (a).
When? Saturday July 17, 4.30 p.m. PT, 7.30 p.m. ET and 0.30 a.m. BST (18/7).
Where? BMO Field, Toronto, Canada. We think...*
How can I catch the action? Fox 35 Plus and LionNationTV for Central Florida residents. Radio broadcast is also available on FM 96.9 The Game and Accion 97.9 FM and 810 AM. The game is not currently scheduled for UK broadcast.
*EDIT: we now know for sure, that the game is in Toronto.
Another tough game for Orlando City, coming off a challenging stretch. Toronto may be rooted to the bottom of the East, but they have a new coach and recently beat the New England Revolution away from home. The game is also, if reports at the time of writing are to be believed, likely to take place at BMO Field; in what would be their first competitive game there since the pandemic begun. Regardless of where the game is taking place, however, this will be no cake walk for the Lions.
I said, in both of my previous Toronto previews, that they are a better side than their position in the standings would suggest. They'll undoubtedly feel the effects of having so many players unavailable to them (see team news). But Orlando don't exactly have a clean bill of health either. This is going to be a tough game; 3 points for the Lions would be absolutely huge. This promises to be a fascinating game, and I for one can't wait. I've gotten over the fact that football isn't coming home to England. Now I'm just hoping it comes home in Orlando this week.
It's difficult to really elaborate on Toronto's style of play, at least at this point in time. They're currently manageress, and the interim head coach has only had a matter of weeks with the team. He's also inherited one of the most porous defences in the league. They concede goals; even their recent win over New England saw them breached twice, with the Revs having 21 shots at goal (figure 1). TFC have been shipping goals at a rate of 2.42 per game, and hold an XGa rating of 1.52 (figure 2). Javier Pérez will want to get them defending as a unit, a task which won't be helped by the absences of key defensive pieces (see team news).
They can score goals, though. With 16 in 12, their scoring rate of 1.33 goals per game is higher than that of Montreal in 4th. They played quite direct against New England, with 57 of their 368 being long balls. I would stop short of saying they're a direct team in general, though. No one really knows what this team is going to be yet, and it's difficult to imagine they will approach this game in the same manner as they would under Chris Armas. Why? Well, in layman's terms it simply wasn't working.
Figure 1 shows Toronto's overall statistics, against New England.
Figure 2 shows Toronto's XG stats on the season so far.
Toronto have more than a few key absentees heading into this game. They are without Ifunanyachi Achara and Quentin Westberg due to injury, and potentially Justin Morrow. They are also without Ayo Akinola, Richie Laryea, Jonathan Osorio, Eriq Zavaleta and Kemar Lawrence; all of whom are currently listed as being on international duty.
Orlando City, meanwhile, should welcome Antonio Carlos back into the fold. Pedro Gallese is expected back with Orlando City this week, so should make the trip to Toronto (though Papi may choose to rest him, following his Copa America heroics). Joao Moutinho and Alexandre Pato are still expected to sit this one out, as is Ruan. Daryl Dike is on international duty, whilst new signing Emmanuel Mas could be involved from the bench.
Possible starting XI
Why would they change a winning formula? Well, mainly because they have too. Toronto are without a recognized option at left-back, with Kemar Lawrence and Justin Morrow both potentially missing. I'm guessing that Junior may play there, but that's just my best guesstimate. I can see our Dom taking his place up top, with Akinola missing. Let's hope he leaves his shooting boots at home...
Fresh off of his Copa America exploits, where he only featured for the grand total of 21 minutes, Soteldo announced himself back into MLS in spectacular fashion. A goal and an assist at Gillette Stadium helped Toronto to 3 valuable points. He was a constant threat during Orlando's 1-0 home victory over our former squatters, and has the ability to establish himself as one of the league's top attackers.
The Venezuelan is one of the key creative influences on this squad. The forward has 6 key passes, 1 assist and 1 goal on the season so far. He has a high shot conversion rate, at around 16.7% with an XG rating of 1.07, and an expected assist rating of 0.3. I'd expect these numbers to rise, now the shackles have been removed following Chris Armas' departure.
A player with exceptional ball control and a low centre of gravity, he is able to draw fouls; 3 so far this season. His dribbling style is similar to that of Jack Grealish, in that he draws defenders in before ghosting past them or drawing a foul. Top player.
It's been a turbulent season for Toronto so far, with head coach Chris Armas barely lasting 11 games before being ousted from his position. A 7-1 drubbing at the hands of DC United was enough to sign his death warrant at Toronto. A 2-2-8 record has the club languishing down in 14th position. Interim head coach Javier Pérez oversaw a surprise 3-2 win in New England. They'll be looking to make it 2 wins in 2, when an out of form Orlando City come to town.
Orlando City, on the other hand, come into this game off the back of 2 consecutive defeats. The defeat in Chicago has left a bitter taste for many connected with the club. In what was, probably, the worst performance of Oscar Pareja's tenure, Orlando were swept aside by a resurgent Fire team. Their 6-3-3 record still has them riding high in the standings, however. The Lions will be eager to get back to winning ways here.
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