Orlando City will continue its faltering, staggering, collapse toward the end of the season Wednesday night in Toronto. At least that's what one has to expect with the team's recent run of form, where the team has surrendered four goals in each of its last three matches. Unfortunately, the lads are taking the worst stretch of results for the whole season. You can see on the pitch and in the stats that the team is playing better than they did previously, but they are running into a buzz saw of playoff-bound teams that are fighting to gain every point to try to secure the highest possible place. Meanwhile, poor City just seem to make crucial mistakes at exactly all the wrong times in order to wind up thoroughly trampled by the end of these matches.
It's certainly not the way we fans (and I'm sure it goes for the players as well) would like to see the team end the season. In 2015 the team looked like they were done and dusted before August ever rolled around, and then they went on a late-season streak of wins that saw them enter the final week of the season with at least a mathematical chance to make the playoffs. This year they entered September on or above the red line to make the playoffs, and with the chance for the post-season in hand they have just done nothing but lose big match after big match, squandering the opportunity before them.
Players to Watch
If there is any good news at all for Orlando going in to face Eastern Conference leaders Toronto, it could depend on how rapidly the home side will see a pair of players recover from injury. The always-dangerous Sebastian Giovinco has been out since late August with an adductor strain, and has not been in the 18-man roster for several weeks. Likewise, Tosaint Ricketts has not played in the last several matches with a groin injury and is still listed as questionable for the match tomorrow on the latest MLS injury report.
But just because those two players (who have both scored against Orlando City for Toronto) are out of the lineup, it doesn't mean Orlando City should expect an easy match. Jozy Altidore has eight goals on the season, while his US National teammate Michael Bradley has two more. Meanwhile, Will Johnson and Jonathan Osorio each have five assists to lead the team should Giovinco--who has 16 goals and 13 assists on the year--be unable to play.
Meanwhile, Orlando City has achieved a rare feat indeed on the MLS injury report this week, with no players listed as unavailable for the match. While they have not played yet, both Pedro Ribeiro and Rafael Ramos have appeared in the 18-man match day rosters recently, so it's possible they could be available for the match at Toronto, though it seems unlikely either would start after so many months away with injuries. Another bit of good news is that Carlos Rivas is back after serving a one-match suspension for yellow-card accumulation, so he could provide some spark to the offense, which has seemed to be misfiring badly of late. And of course Orlando City will be without Antonio Nocerino, who was shown a straight red card against DC United on Saturday.
Hopefully, Jason Kreis and the players can find a little touch of magic in the early fall weather in Toronto to help them stop the skid of losing matches and find a way to bring home three points.
Fundamentally this team is not going to get any better until it has a serious defensive overhaul. I'm not sure that there are four defenders on this team that can keep a quality attacking side from getting good looks at goal. The defenders we do have are either prone to ball watch, have yet to develop their full potential and chemistry with the team, or are just too slow to effectively mark speedy strikers.
I've been wearing purple-tinted glasses all season, but by now those lenses are all scratched and cracked, and I don't think I can put them on any more, at least not until I see how Jason Kreis is going to re-work the roster during the off-season. I see Toronto finding a way to put four more goals on the board, even if Joe Bendik does wind up having more saves than the home side's goalkeeper on the night. Sadly, I'm going to have to predict another 4 - 1 loss for Orlando City and another shovelful of dirt tossed on the casket holding the team's hopes for making the post season.
What about you? Do you share my pessimism about Orlando City's ability to get a win on the road? Or do you think they will be able to turn it around and start a winning streak to end the season? Will one of Orlando City's players have a breakout match, or will we just see yet more evidence the team are already making vacation plans for Halloween week and beyond? Let me know in the comments below!