Orlando City-Toronto FC Preview
Oscar Pareja will err on the side of caution when it comes to integrating Daryl Dike back into Orlando City's starting line-up.
The striker is back at the Exploria Stadium following a hugely successful spell on loan with English Championship club Barnsley, where he scored nine goals in 21 appearances.
Dike has been strongly linked with a permanent move away from Orlando, but he remains on their roster for now and revealed this week he is "ready to go" when called upon.
However, Pareja has hinted the 21-year-old - who has not had a rest over the past year - will not start against Toronto FC on Saturday.
"I think it's important for all of us to understand about timing his return," Pareja said.
"Obviously with Daryl being part of our first season last year and the success he had in England and with the national team, we want to have him available for the fans.
"But at the same time, we want to be smart about his timing."
Orlando are third in the Eastern Conference with a record of three wins, three draws and one defeat to date, while Toronto are seven points worse off in 12th after a slow start.
The fixtures now come thick and fast for Toronto following a three-week hiatus, and head coach Chris Armas has spent that time figuring out where his side can improve.
"I can assure you, and the players can attest, we're taking hard looks, we're having very specific training sessions to address things, and there's a big commitment from the guys," he said.
"They know that I'm in, I know that they're in, and we're in together. We know we're close. We're fighting for every little inch and when we're full strength we know we will be a force."
Toronto FC - Ayo Akinola
Jozy Altidore continues to train alone following his confrontation with boss Armas, placing added pressure on the shoulders of Akinola to lead the line. He was on target in the 2-1 loss to Columbus Crew before the international break and will be looking to add to his 11 career MLS goals this weekend.
Orlando City FC - Tesho Akindele
Akindele has been directly involved in each of Orlando's last three goals - one goal of his own and two assists, including the winning goal against Toronto when the sides last met a month ago. It is the second time the 29-year-old has been involved in a goal in three straight MLS games after contributing to a goal in four successive matches in March and April 2016 with FC Dallas.
- Orlando City has lost only one of its last four games against Toronto FC (W2 D1), including a 1-0 victory on May 22. The Lions avoided defeat just twice in their first nine games against Toronto (W1 D1 L7) in MLS.
- Toronto FC's five points from seven matches represents its second worst start to a season in the club's MLS history after losing its first nine games in 2012. The Reds had 13 points at this stage in 2019 and 15 in 2020.
- Orlando City lost 2-1 to the Red Bulls in their last match in late May. The Lions have not lost consecutive regular-season matches since August 2019, though they did lose the MLS is Back Final and their first match after the regular season restart last summer.
- Toronto FC has used an MLS-high 27 players already this season. They have had 20 different players come on as substitutes this season, also an MLS high.
Updated June 18, 2021