The Orlando City fans did their best to make their team feel at home as the supporters gathered outside the stadium for unofficial watch parties and they could be heard throughout the broadcast of the match. MLS also celebrated June-Teenth in collaboration with the Black Players for Change organization, as the players wore special edition kits that will be auctioned off after the match.
This game had another quick start as Orlando City forward Tesho Akindele scored for the second time this season in the first minute as Mauricio Pereyra guided a ball past the back four (4) of Toronto and into the path of Tesho for the first time finish. Orlando continued to press Toronto as they got another goal from the head of their captain Nani in the 8th minute from a beautiful cross off the boot of Akindele that Nani was able to pounce out and send pass the keeper, Quentin Westberg, who had given the ball away just a few moments early that led to this goal. Toronto had questions coming into this game about their former starting keeper, and his performance may have left more questions about his play and future with the team.
Toronto showed resolve and grit as the first 10 minutes of this game felt more like something from FIFA 21, with the quick pace and end-to-end action. They kept their heads up and scored just two (2) minutes later, as a backup goalkeeper for Orlando and Tottenham Hotspur youth player, Brandon Austin, did well to save the initial shot coming from the left, however, the rebound was headed in by Toronto forward Ayo Akinola, who simply out jumped the Orlando CB Robin Jansson. This may have been Jansson’s only blip on what was a solid defensive performance.
The “home” team would eventually equalize as the game slowed down, and after the hydration break in the 30th minute. As the teams both regrouped from the defacto timeout Toronto seemed to get the better of Orlando as they pressed down the right side of Orlando and an end line cutback by reigning league MVP, Alejandro Pozuelo found the feet of Jonathan Osorio for the goal in the 39th minute. The teams then went into halftime tied 2-2 with plenty of talking points for the commentators during halftime.
This was always going to be a game that would test both teams, as the FIFA international break was still on and the teams were both missing key players. Orlando was missing starters Pedro Gallese in goal and Sebastian Mendez in midfield, who are both playing for Peru and Ecuador respectively in this year's Copa America tournament. Toronto was missing Yeferson Soteldo of Venezuela who gave Orlando City fits the last time they played. CB Rodrigo Schlegel was also missing after the passing of his father, and his teammates wore a black armband and sent him messages throughout the game, and post-game. The missing of key players and the re-insertion of others made this game a little off balance for both teams as they struggled to find the cohesion early which led to the poor defense and 4 goals in the first half. \
The second half started with a much calmer pace as both teams seemed to feel more comfortable after the halftime break. A test did come in the 55th minute that required a goal-line clearance from Kyle Smith, where it seemed the rest of the defense had just lost focus. The real action picked back up again after both teams started to make their second-half substitutions. Orlando brought on USMNT forward Daryl Dike in the 64th minute to replace tired forward Akindele, and Toronto did the same substituting Patrick Mullins for their goal scorer Akinola. Orlando would get the better impact from their substitution as almost immediately after entering the game Dike would earn a free kick in an attacking position just outside the 18-yard box and force the referee to produce a yellow card for Toronto CB Omar Gonzalez.
Both teams continued pushing and made additional attacking substitutions as it was clear neither coach wanted to leave points on the field. Orlando had been flying high getting results from six (6) of their first seven (7) games and 12 points, while Toronto was desperate to turn the corner with only 5 points from their first seven (7) games. Both teams would have chances down the stretch as the defenses tired and got stretched but ultimately it would be Orlando who would get their third goal of the game.
As the fresh legs of three (3) attacking players for Orlando, Benji Michel, Dike, and Chris Muller pressed the Toronto defense they forced a sloppy pass to the midfield that Junior Urso pounced on. He drove it to the top of the 18, then a quick one-two link-up play with Meuller found the ball back at Urso’s feet and he didn’t hesitate to send it towards the back of the net as it went low and to the near post of Westberg. Toronto got one more chance late as former Lion, Dom Dwyer had a chance to equalize in the 90+3 but the ball had just too much pace and his vision was blocked as the ball came in.
Standout from this game would have to be the play of Silvester Van de Water, his skill, and soccer IQ were evident in his performance again. As he continues to grow into this team, expect his name to be well known throughout MLS. The return of Pozuelo for Toronto also makes them a much more dynamic and creative team in the attacking half. His movements create space and drag defenders out of position creating space for his teammates. Both teams will have to take advantage of any rest they can get as they have busy weeks. Orlando will play San Jose Earthquakes at home on Tuesday at 7:30 pm, then travel to Miami for a Friday night game vs Inter Miami at 8 pm. Three games in seven days is a lot for any team, but a team that is already missing players for the international break will make this a real test of what Orlando is made of. However, securing the first 3 points will go a long way for their confidence for the rest of this week. Toronto plays Nashville away on Wednesday and then return home to play Cincinnati on Saturday, no word yet if this game will be played in Canada or will still be at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, but either way, the travel and the three games in one week will be the test if Toronto can start to turn their season around.