Defending MLS Cup champion Toronto FC have endured a rough start due to numerous injuries and a busy schedule in reaching the finals of the CONCACAF Champions League.
Toronto (2-6-1) is a veteran enough squad not to panic, but the time has come to start moving up the Eastern Conference standings. That quest begins Friday, when the Reds host Orlando City (6-3-1).
Orlando is fourth in the East despite a 2-1 loss to Atlanta United on Sunday that snapped a franchise-record six-game winning streak. Toronto is 10th of 11 teams and sits 10 points back of New England with a game in-hand for the final playoff spot.
“We understand it’s been a crazy start to the season in every way,” Toronto captain Michael Bradley said. “The reality is we’re not at the beginning anymore. It’s important we understand every time we step on the field it’s a big opportunity, a chance, to get ourselves going in a big way.”
Bradley hopes a boost from the BMO Field crowd will help offset the red-card suspension of forward Sebastian Giovinco, the 2015 MLS MVP and a Best XI selection in all three of his seasons in the league.
While Toronto has lost two straight, Orlando coach Jason Kreis is wary of a team that is beginning to get healthy again. Defenders Chris Mavinga and Gregory van der Wiel and midfielder Victor Vazquez should return to the Toronto lineup on Friday.
“I’m not really concerned about playing a team lower in the standings because it’s Toronto,” Kreis said. “If we don’t have respect for Toronto, we don’t have respect for anybody.
“We believe there’s going to be some important players coming back for our match so it’s going to look like a Toronto we know about and have a ton of respect for.”
—Field Level Media