Following a controversial fourth consecutive defeat in their Major League Soccer campaign, Toronto return to BMO Field on Saturday to face a side that they have not beaten in the regular season since 2019 in Orlando City.
The Reds have dropped to 12th in the Eastern Conference after losing 1-0 to the Vancouver Whitecaps last weekend, while Orlando are tied for third with CF Montreal, who beat them 4-1 last Saturday.
Losing to a fellow Canadian rival is always a bitter pill to swallow, but given the nature of Sunday's defeat at BC Place Stadium, Bob Bradley and his side must have felt like they were robbed.
Toronto had their share of opportunities against the Caps, missing a first-half penalty, then having a goal mysteriously called back for a questionable foul before conceding in the 90th minute on a tap-in from Tosaint Ricketts, who looked to be offside on the play.
Bradley and the Reds were fuming afterwards, though the American noted that the result is a reminder of how sometimes things are not always fair, adding that they need to stick together and play through those moments.
While their season has hit a bit of a snag, going goalless in back-to-back domestic encounters, TFC will take some solace in knowing that they have not been shut out in three straight MLS fixtures since 2014.
In 2021, the Reds were a mess defensively, conceding a club high for goals in the regular season (66), and after 11 fixtures this year, that continues to be a trouble spot, allowing the second-most tallies in the league so far (22), collecting only one clean sheet in their previous 41 domestic affairs.
TFC have found themselves behind first in eight of their 11 matches this season, though they have fared well when trailing, collecting eight points in that scenario.
Since the middle of April, the Lions have been up and down, winning one then losing one, and unfortunately for them last Saturday, the latter happened as an upstart Montreal side vastly outplayed them.
Oscar Pareja's team only fired two shots in that encounter, one of which hit the target as they struggled to win the ball back, while rarely creating much until at least an hour of play.
That was the sixth time in 2022 in which Orlando had scored a goal or fewer over 90 minutes, though they have not lost a domestic encounter when netting multiple times since dropping a 3-2 decision to the Columbus Crew near the end of last year.
Their identity is traditionally a well-structured and challenging side to break down, with some double-pivot midfielders who can protect their centre-backs, which in-turn has permitted their fullbacks to provide some width to the attack.
If you take away their display versus Montreal last weekend, they have looked pretty solid on the back end, conceding only once in their other four road fixtures, with three of those games resulting in clean sheets.
On Tuesday, the team earned a big moral victory by knocking out the Eastern Conference leading Philadelphia Union from the U.S. Open Cup (2-1), thanks to a pair of second half goals three minutes apart from Ercan Kara and Andres Perea.
Orlando have yet to lose this season when scoring the opening goal and have not dropped a regular season game when that has happened since July 7, 2021, when they allowed three unanswered to the Chicago Fire in a 3-1 defeat.
Alejandro Pozuelo missed a first-half penalty for Toronto against the Whitecaps, while Jayden Nelson poked home what appeared to be the opening goal, only for the referee to call it back for what was deemed to be a foul on goalkeeper Thomas Hasal.
Jesus Jimenez, who is in a three-way tie for the MLS Golden Boot with Sebastian Driussi and Jesus Ferreira, has failed to score in his last two matches, while Toronto made one change to their opening lineup against Vancouver as Deandre Kerr replaced the suspended Priso in midfield.
Antonio Carlos will be out for the long term, as the Orlando defender has a left thigh injury, Tesho Akindele remains questionable with a right thigh issue and Silvester van der Water could be a game-time decision due to a problem in his left lower leg.
Robin Jansson will be eligible to return after missing the match versus Montreal due to yellow card accumulation.
Joao Moutinho notched his second of the domestic campaign in their defeat to Montreal, Sebas Mendez collected his 75th cap as a Lion in all competitions, while Mauricio Pereyra picked up his 28th career assist for the club in a losing effort.
Toronto possible starting lineup:
Bono; Petrasso, O'Neill, MacNaughton, Chung; Kerr, Bradley, Thompson, Akinola; Jimenez, Pozuelo
Orlando City possible starting lineup:
Gallese; Moutinho, Jansson, Schlegel, Ruan; Urso, Araujo; Mulraney, Pereyra, Torres; Pato
We say: Toronto 1-1 Orlando City
Consistency has been a significant issue for both teams throughout the campaign, with Orlando struggling to create a lot of chances while the Reds seem to be frequently collecting the ball out of their own goal.
The Lions have not lost consecutive regular-season encounters since September of last year, although Toronto have not been blanked at home in 2022, making a draw a reasonable assumption.
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