It's a short turnaround for a midweek match for Orlando City (5 - 6- 13, 28 points) on Wednesday night at Camping World Stadium, when the Lions welcome Toronto FC (11 - 7 - 7, 40 points) to town. Toronto is the best defending team in the East, allowing only 26 goals on the season. But they also bring some prolific scorers and dangerous playmakers on offense.
Toronto sit 2nd in the Eastern Conference table, one point behind leaders NYCFC. Orlando City, who do seem to be gradually tightening up their defensive shape under Jason Kreis, still sit frustratingly right below the red line in 7th, though they are in a tie with DC United. It would be a nice signal for the players that the extra work hours they have put into training since Coach Kreis took over the team is paying off if they win, but that won't be an easy task.
Players to Watch
Toronto enters the match on a strong run of form, having won five of their last six matches, including a 3 - 1 victory over Philadelphia last Saturday. The club also features three very dangerous offensive-minded players: US Men's National Team Captain Michael Bradley, his fellow USMNT teammate Jozy Altidore, and Sebastian Giovinco, who is tied with David Villa on 16 goals to lead all MLS scorers. Giovinco is also an important playmaker for Toronto, contributing 11 assists on the season so far.
In the first meeting of the season between OCSC and Toronto, the Lions were victorious. But in that match, Giovinco was the only Toronto superstar to play against Orlando, and he was held to a single assist in terms of contributions to the score line. For this match there will be no call-ups for national team play, and Orlando City's new-found form on defense will be strongly tested. Altidore looked like a man possessed against Philadelphia, setting up or scoring two of the team's three goals, which extends his influence to 12 of the team's most recent 15 goals. The one saving grace for Orlando City with regard to Altidore is that he is recovering from an injury that has prevented him from playing a full 90 minutes, so he may not be on the pitch for the full match.
For Orlando City, the club expects to have both Kevin Molino and Seb Hines available for selection. According to media reports, Hines was held out of the match at Colorado due to recurring issues with his knees, which have caused him to miss the occasional match throughout his career. And Kevin Molino told coaches after the Chicago match two weeks ago--the first after he missed some games for a hamstring injury--that he did not feel like he had reached full match fitness, so he was held out of Saturday's match to give him time to work his way back into match-ready form.
Rafael Ramos also appears to be closer to being available for a return from his injury, having played half a game for OCB on Sunday night in Melbourne.
History hasn't been kind to Orlando City in its matchups against Toronto. The clubs have faced off four times since the start of 2015, and the record is 3 - 1 - 0 in favor of Toronto, with the Canadian club having scored 13 goals while allowing Orlando City only four in those meetings. Perhaps even more distressing is that Toronto holds a 4 - 3 scoring edge over Orlando City at Camping World Stadium in the two matches that have been played here.
I don't like this prediction, and I know all fans will be frustrated if this is the result, but I'm going to predict a 2 - 2 draw. I predict Molino will be back in the Starting XI and will add his spark to the offense, creating an opportunity for himself and one for Cyle Larin. But I also think that even the improved Orlando City defense will not be able to deny Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco from finding the back of the net. I hope in my heart of hearts that we can pull off a win, but my head tells me that even my prediction of a draw represents being a bit of a homer, considering how potent Toronto's attack can be.
What do you think? Do you believe Orlando City will win the match? Is there someone on the club whom you believe is poised for a breakout match? Or will Toronto's potent offense and stingy defense prove too much for the home side? Let me know in the comments below!