Toronto FC continues its busy week—with the second of three matches in eight days—when it hosts Orlando City on Wednesday night at BMO Field.
Here’s what you need to know about the game.
Eastern Conference rivals
It’s only early August but this game should have plenty of tension as it pits two Eastern Conference rivals in the thick of the playoff race against one another.
Toronto (8-8-4) currently sits fifth in the East, just a point ahead of Orlando (7-9-6) who is in seventh, one place out of a post-season berth. Crucially, TFC has two games in hand on the expansion franchise, so Orlando could badly use a win on Wednesday night.
TFC returns home following an ugly 3-1 road loss to the New England Revolution on the weekend, while Orlando ended a three-game losing slump with a 5-2 home win over the Columbus Crew.
TFC’s defensive issues
Toronto FC has been scoring plenty of goals this season, thanks in large part to the exploits of Sebastian Giovinco. The problem is the Reds have also been conceding at an alarming rate.
The Reds have given up 34 goals in 20 games, and has only kept four clean sheets since the start of the campaign. Since a 0-0 draw against D.C United on June 27, Toronto has conceded a whopping 15 goals over their last five matches. TFC ranks 19th in MLS in goals conceded per game at 1.70.
No wonder, then, that coach Greg Vanney conducted an extended video session with his players this week where they reviewed their defending.
“Almost all of them are just us checking out for a minute, losing concentration,” Vanney said. “Situations that we can deal with. A lot of them came off set pieces.”
He later added: “From me down to every last guy that was in that room, we were embarrassed with the goals that we’ve been giving up. For me that awareness is the first part of getting it sorted out.
“Because I know the group does not want to be in the video room, on the video screen the next time we give up a goal. Because it was that embarrassing to watch for all of us.”
Larin on fire for Orlando
TFC should have their hands full with Canadian sensation Cyle Larin.
Larin, a 20-year-old native of Brampton, Ont., ranks fourth in MLS scoring with 11 goals in 16 games for Orlando, tying the league record for most goals by a rookie in a season. He’s coming off a two-goal performance in Orlando’s win over Columbus on the weekend. The game before Larin netted a hat trick in a win against New York City FC, and was named MLS player of the week.
One of Larin’s strength’s has been his ability to quickly separate himself from opposing central defenders who try to close him down in the final third of the pitch—even when he’s been outnumbered.
“We have to have a physical presence on him. One guy always has to have contact with him. It can’t be two of (our defenders) just marking the space in front and behind him. We have to be physically connected to him at all times and make sure he doesn’t get a clean look on goal,” Vanney explained.
Brazilian star Kaka did not travel with the team to Toronto.
Bradley questionable, Altidore suspended
Captain Michael Bradley didn’t play in the loss to New England because of a calf injury and according to Vanney he remains “very questionable” for Wednesday’s contest. Vanney indicated that Bradley could be ready for Saturday’s home match against Kansas City.
Forward Jozy Altidore is suspended after picking up a red card in the weekend loss to Nee England.
Left fullback Ashtone Morgan is fit again and is available for selection vs. Orlando. The Canadian defender has sat out the last few games with an abductor strain.
Defenders Clement Simonin (knee) and Nick Hagglund (recovery from appendectomy) remain sidelined for Toronto. Forward Luke Moore (ankle) is also out.
Midfielder Collen Warner has served his one-game suspension, and will likely be in TFC’s starting line-up versus Orlando.
Defender Damian Perquis will earn an automatic suspension for yellow card accumulation if he is cautioned in this game.
Head to head
These teams have only met once before, back in April when TFC earned a 2-0 win in Orlando thanks to a pair of second-half goals from Jozy Altidore.
Toronto and Orlando will play each other for the third and final time in 2015 when they meet again at BMO Field on Aug. 22.
Next up for TFC
Toronto FC hosts Sporting Kansas City on Saturday at BMO Field.
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