Slow starts have been a theme for both Orlando City SC and Toronto FC this season with very different results.
Both will be looking to be better out of the gate when the two clubs face off at BMO Field on Friday night in Toronto.
Orlando (6-3-1) has conceded the first goal in eight of its 10 matches thus far and on five occasions, rallied for the win or a draw. The latest instance was in their loss to Atlanta United on Sunday, in which they allowed the first two goals — the second coming as a result of Orlando’s struggle to respond to the first.
“We give up the first goal and sometimes the second goal and we’re clawing back,” midfielder Justin Meram, who scored his first goal of the season in the loss, told the Orlando Sentinel. “You can’t do that 30 times in a season. We need to figure out how to start off better.”
The defeat snapped a franchise-best six-game winning streak for the Lions, who will have to make do on short rest to get back on track.
Orlando sits fourth in the Eastern Conference standings, six points back of first-place Atlanta and eight points clear of the playoff cut-off line. But the team knows it can’t rest on what for now is a somewhat comfortable position. Last season, the Lions started the season strong before a May match against TFC spurred a tailspin that led the club to a 4-14-9 finish after starting 6-1-0.
“I think it’s important that we continue to improve on those aspects and we continue to remind ourselves of who we are. And also remind ourselves that we’re capable of playing better than that, but also that we need to improve,” coach Jason Kreis told the Sentinel.
For Toronto, the first 10 minutes of the halves have been a big issue. In its loss to New England, all three of the Revolution’s goals were scored by the 10-minute mark of both the first and second half. It’s happened in each of TFC’s past four losses, too.
While Toronto rallied for a pair of goals to bring the score close, it was still another loss for the reigning MLS Cup champions. Now at 2-6-1 on the season mired in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, Toronto is off to its worst start since 2013 when it started 1-4-4 and the third worst start in franchise history.
“It’s too many games we lost, it’s no good,” Sebastian Giovinco told mlssoccer.com. “I think we have to change direction, we have to change everything.”
One change that is certain will be the absence of Giovinco for the match after the star striker earned a suspension after making contact with New England’s Wilfried Zahibo’s face.
Injuries haven’t helped the team’s struggles. Every time a player returns, seemingly another goes down. The latest instance came Saturday when defender Chris Mavinga returned after missing seven games and midfielder Nicolas Hasler left with a light quad strain.
“We all have to be more disciplined, we all have to do our jobs better, we all have to compete better, we all have to start games better,” coach Greg Vanney told the Toronto Sun. “On a very basic level, now guys are coming back, injuries can’t keep being the excuse, we’ve got to find that stability that we expect and it starts with how we compete from the opening whistle.”