A double reunion is in store for Toronto FC on Saturday as Jozy Altidore is back in contention for the Reds’ first match at BMO Field since September 2020.
Toronto have been staging their ‘home’ games at Exploria Stadium in Florida due to public health restrictions owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
But it was announced this week that Toronto can slowly start to open up their home ground, with 7,000 fans expected for this weekend’s visit of Orlando City SC.
The game coincides with the return of forward Altidore, who has spent the past month training away from the first team following a rift with recently-departed boss Chris Armas.
“It’s been a tough few weeks for everybody involved in the club,” said Altidore, who last appeared in a 1-0 loss to Orlando on May 22.
“When you look at the team returning back to Toronto, the three points against New England in the last game, everybody is just really excited now to kick on.
“We’re excited to get back home, to play in front of our fans and to hopefully turn the season around.”
Toronto remain bottom of the overall standings, despite ending a six-game losing streak with a shock 3-2 win against Eastern Conference leaders New England Revolution in their last game.
Orlando enter this contest on the back of successive defeats to New York Red Bulls and Chicago Fire FC, meanwhile, conceding five goals in those two losses.
The Lions were last in action on July 7, but they did not find out until Wednesday about their game with Toronto being moved to the Canadian city.
“From last week, we were hearing the possibility of us having to travel to Canada,” head coach Oscar Pareja said.
“It’s something that we have been waiting on behalf of the league that everything could get back to normal. It hasn’t been any news for us and we are mentally prepared to go and compete.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Toronto FC – Jozy Altidore
It is likely that Altidore will make an appearance from the bench against Orlando, rather than start the game, but do not count against the United States international making an impact.
He has scored 67 league goals in his seven seasons with Toronto, including his only goal of the 2021 campaign to date in September’s 3-1 win against Columbus Crew.
Orlando City SC – Chris Mueller
Should he feature on Saturday, Mueller will draw level with Cristian Higuita for the most appearances in Orlando’s history in all competitions (108).
The 24-year-old winger has an impressive return of four assists and two goals in 12 outings this campaign, which he will be looking to add to on his record-equalling appearance.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Orlando City have won both of their matches against Toronto FC this season after recording just two wins in the first 12 meetings between the sides (D2 L8).
– Toronto ended a six-match losing streak with their 3-2 win over New England last week. The six-match losing run was the second-longest in club history after a nine-game streak to start the 2012 season.
– Orlando have lost consecutive matches after losing just one of their first ten games this season (W6 D3). The Lions kept four clean sheets in their first six matches but have managed just one in their last six.
– Toronto have allowed 29 goals this season, seven more than any other team. The Reds have allowed multiple goals in six straight matches, the longest such run in a single season in club history.
– Orlando have scored six goals in the opening 15 minutes of matches this season, which is the most in MLS, including three of those in two matches against Toronto this season. The Lions have won all five matches in which they have scored in the first 15 minutes but have won just once (D3 L3) in the seven matches in which they have not.