Orlando City returns to action tonight following the three-week league break as they “hit the road” to take on Eastern Conference foes Toronto FC at Exploria Stadium on Saturday (7:30 p.m., FOX35 Plus).
Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Toronto has spent all of the season so far in Florida, playing their home games in Orlando, so despite the game being played at the Lions’ home ground, the Reds, for scoring purposes, will be the home team for tonight’s matchup.
“It’s exciting to get back to the competition again, especially to play against a good rival in Toronto that we faced already a few weeks ago,” head coach Oscar Pareja said at his pre-match press conference on Thursday. “[We’re] trying to get the whole group together again after having players at their national teams, some players carrying injuries and things like that. We’re looking forward to the competition, especially this coming week that is full of games. We’re excited.”
This is already the second time that the two sides have seen each other this season. Orlando hosted Toronto back on May 22, with the Lions taking the 1-0 victory thanks to Tesho Akindele‘s 12th minute goal. The team followed up that performance a week later with a disappointing road loss at New York Red Bulls, falling 2-1 on May 29, which ended the team’s six-game unbeaten run to start the season.
Saturday’s game acts as somewhat of a re-set for the team following that largely sub-par performance at Red Bull Arena.
Orlando City hobbled into the break with a rash of injuries and absences plaguing the team. Nani will be available once again for Pareja after serving a two-game suspension against Toronto and New York. Star striker Daryl Dike is back with the team following his five-plus months away with Barnsley in the Championship. Don’t expect to see Dike seeing full availability right away as the team manages his work load and ease him back into the lineup.
Injury-wise, Uri Rosell and Joao Moutinho are back to full health thanks to the long break, with Ruan and Alexandre Pato moving closer to the field themselves. Two more key absences will also shadow the squad for the next couple of weeks as Pedro Gallese and Sebastian Mednez are currently in Brazil representing their respective countries at the Copa America, meaning loanee Brandon Austin will be in goal starting tonight.
Rodrigo Schlegel will also be unavailable for this match following the death of his father, who passes away this week due to COVID-19.
Despite the victory last month, Orlando has historically struggled to best Toronto throughout their time in MLS, with the Reds winning eight of the 13 meetings all-time, but only one of those losses has come in the last four games between the two.
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