Orlando City

Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. Toronto FC

Get caught up on the state of Toronto FC ahead of Orlando City’s Decision Day matchup in Canada.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

The final matchday of the 2023 MLS regular season is almost upon us. With the second seed in the East locked down nice and tight, Orlando City will travel to Canada to take on Toronto FC on Decision Day.

A date with the Reds means that I spoke to Tomas Karageorgos of Waking the Red. Tomas was very helpful in getting us familiar with what’s been happening with Toronto since these two teams last played, and also gave us some insight into what we might see from TFC next year.

Obviously he has yet to take charge of the team in a game, but what were your thoughts on the hiring of John Herdman as Toronto’s new head coach?

Tomas Karageorgos: The hiring of John Herdman as head coach of Toronto FC didn’t surprise me entirely, considering the difficult financial situation plaguing the Canadian Men’s National Team for the past few years (e.g. not receiving new kits for the 2022 World Cup, not being paid for national team appearances). This is Herdman’s first role as a head coach of a club team, so I am interested to see how he manages the team on the back of the 2022 MLS season being the worst ever campaign for the Reds. Every word Herdman speaks is calculated and motivational. He will need to continue in that fashion if he wants important players such as Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi to not only stay with the club, but to lead by example with strong performances on the pitch. Winning typically solves problems, and the fans will thank Herdman if he can turn Toronto FC around.

Herdman recently went on the record saying that he hopes Federico Bernaerdeschi and Lorenzo Insigne will stay, and that he can see them building the future of the team. What would a successful team built around those two look like to you? What areas of the roster would you like to see addressed?

TK: Firstly, both Bernardeschi and Insigne need to buy into the project in order for Toronto FC to be a successful team. They need to give maximum effort and be engaged in all plays. Their frustration was clearly visible during numerous moments on the pitch this season, and they cannot let that impact them to the point where they entirely give up on attempting to win possession back.

Secondly, the defense and midfield need all the help they can get. Raoul Petretta is the highest paid fullback in MLS, and has not looked convincing at all, in my opinion. Kobe Franklin has been a revelation at right back, but there needs to be cover for him in the event of an injury. The departure of Matt Hedges to Austin FC minimized the depth chart for Toronto and no replacement was signed. Terry Dunfield used TFC II players as a band-aid solution at center back, but there need to be reliable signings made for the 2024 season.

In terms of the midfield, depth proves to be an issue yet again. Michael Bradley is retiring at season’s end, Franco Ibarra’s loan concluded, and Victor Vázquez’s future at TFC is unclear. Former TFC II product Alonso Coello was signed to a first-team deal early in the year and has impressed TFC faithful with consistent performances during dire times overall. South African attacker Cassius Mailula (signed in July from Mamelodi Sundowns) has not played many minutes, and I hope that Herdman gives him the opportunity to prove himself.

Michael Bradley just announced that he will be retiring at the end of the season. Can you speak to what he means to Toronto FC?

TK: Michael Bradley means a lot to Toronto FC. He arrived at the same time as Jermain Defoe — the English striker from Tottenham Hotspur — and the move was dubbed “a bloody big deal.” All the attention was on Defoe, but Bradley’s consistent and convincing performances in the midfield helped usher in a new era for the club. Of course, the arrivals of Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco in 2015 took the team to a higher level, but Bradley’s leadership and dedication to the club for 10 seasons will always be remembered — most notably helping Toronto FC record a treble in 2017.

Are there any players who will be unavailable for selection due to injury, suspension, etc.? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?

TK: Due to injury, Adama Diomande, Sigurd Rosted, and Brandon Servania will not be a part of the squad for Saturday’s match.

Projected starting lineup:
Sean Johnson; Raoul Petretta, Aime Mabika, Shane O’Neill, Kobe Franklin; Jonathan Osorio, Michael Bradley, Alonso Coello, Federico Bernardeschi; Lorenzo Insigne, Deandre Kerr.

Score prediction: 2-1 Toronto FC.

Thank you to Tomas for his help in bringing us up to speed on Toronto. Vamos Orlando!


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