After spending much of the past 16 months on the road because of coronavirus restrictions, Toronto FC finally gets to play an actual home game Saturday night when they host Orlando City at BMO Field.
Since the last time they played at home against an opponent from the U.S., March 7, 2020, the Reds have played their home games in East Hartford, Conn., and Orlando, Fla. The three Canadian teams played a series of games against each other last September in Canada before moving to temporary home fields in the U.S.
Toronto (2-8-2, 8 points) is very different club than the one that last lined up in Canada, now sitting at the bottom of the MLS Eastern Conference standings. Orlando City (6-3-3, 21 points) is second in the conference, just three points behind East-leading New England.
Star striker Jozy Altidore will be available to interim coach Javier Perez, rejoining the team for the first time in nearly two months.
Altidore, in his seventh season with Toronto, was ordered to work out on his own away from the team following a May 22 verbal altercation with then-coach Chris Armas after Altidore was substituted out with 20 minutes to go in a 1-0 loss to Orlando City.
Armas was fired July 4 with a 1-8-2 record. Perez guided Toronto to a 3-2 victory in his debut three days later at Eastern Conference-leading New England and opened the door for Altidore’s return.
“I was grateful because I want to be here, so I’m excited,” Altidore said. “When you look at the team returning back to Toronto, the three points against New England, everybody is just really excited now to kick on, to get back home, to play in front of our fans, we hope, and to really turn the season around.”
Although it wasn’t announced until Wednesday that the game would be in Toronto, Orlando City coach Oscar Pareja said his team has been preparing for the trip.
“From last week, we were hearing the possibility to travel to Canada,” Pareja said. “It’s something honestly that we have been waiting on behalf of the league that everything could get back to normal. We played from the first day (thinking) that probably we would be in Canada competing. It hasn’t been any news for us and we are mentally prepared to go and compete.”
The teams also met June 19, with Orlando City winning 3-2 on Junior Urso’s goal in the 84th minute.
–Field Level Media
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