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  • Orlando City vs. Toronto FC Match Preview - Defensive

    Michael Crampton

    Fortunately, the offensive talents of Sebastian Giovinco and the team’s commitment to sending players forward means that they’ve been able to score in all but one game. Until they stop digging a hole for themselves, however, the exasperation around the team’s performances is not going to relent. Exciting losses still net zero points in the standings.

    Sunday evening the Reds face one of MLS’s two new expansion sides down in Orlando. The Lions sit a few spots above the Reds having collected eight points from their first seven matches in northern North America’s top flight. Coming off of a 3-0 loss in Columbus, the first time they truly looked outclassed so far this season, and still without a home win, expect a fired-up OCSC to try to pour the pressure on early and take advantage of TFC’s penchant for early concessions.

    When they’ve clicked, the Lions have looked like a team more than capable of hanging around in the fight for the Eastern Conference’s playoff spots. Arguably they’ve lost games they shouldn’t have to both Supporter’s Shield leading Vancouver and co-Eastern table-toppers DC United. Only two weeks ago Orlando waltzed into Portland, didn’t look the least bit phased, and took full points off the Timbers.

    Obviously the focus is on former Ballon D’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year winner Kaka and the Brazilian has often looked the part so far this season. Three goals and one assist don’t reflect the level of influence he’s been having and if Orlando finds someone to finish the chances he’s generating they’ll almost certainly not keep dropping points when their performances merit more.

    A player Canadian fans will want to keep an eye out for in that regard is Cyle Larin. The young Canadian international, first overall pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, was used sparingly to begin the season but picked up his first pro goal in Portland with a cheeky chest home of a whipped in cross and seems to be transitioning into a regular starter.

    If Toronto persists with the tactic of throwing their fullbacks forward the gaps along their right flank, a persistent source of problems, will providing tantalizing space for both Kaka and Brek Shea to operate. Shea’s return to MLS has seen him converted to a left back and it’s likely that Orlando head coach Adrian Heath will have American international ready to turn attack into defence at pace if TFC are caught up the field.

    For Toronto then, the question is at it has been since almost the beginning of the season: how does Greg Vanney organized his defence. Warren Creavalle is back from suspension and with Mark Bloom still unavailable due to injury and the Nick Hagglund right back experiment seemingly over, it’s possible Creavalle will be given a chance to redeem himself from his horrow-show in Chicago.

    Alternatively, Vanney may elect to go with what seemed to work in the second half in Dallas and start Justin Morrow on the right. Morrow playing on his wrong foot would seem to signal a more conservative approach to the position, which is exactly what many commentators have been calling for.

    Orlando City hasn’t always found it easy to convert good soccer into goals. Whether Toronto is the team that helps them solve that problem will go a long way to deciding the outcome of this match. The Reds have the tools to score. If they stop conceding early and often, there’s still every chance that they could end this road trip with a respectable collection of points.


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