Toronto FC Destroys Orlando City in Pivotal Matchup

We predicted it would be bad.

We just didn’t think it would be that bad.

Orlando City bench boss Adrian Heath couldn’t have imagined what went down at BMO Field Saturday night — especially when you consider Toronto FC had already dispatched City twice this season.

“I think we will be a lot better than last time,” Heath told the league’s website ahead of a match with massive playoff implications.

Considering the Reds drubbed the expansion side 4-1 when it visited Ontario two weeks ago, the thought heading into this Eastern Conference fixture was that it couldn’t get much worse.

When it did, Heath was left pondering his job post-game while his players reflected on an epic, never-before-seen 5-0 embarrassment.

“This is very hard, obviously, as professional soccer players to be losing 4-nil, 5-nil, 4-nil, it’s embarrassing,” Orlando City defender Luke Boden told the Orlando Sentinel post-game. “It’s difficult to swallow.”

That sound you hear is Orlando choking. The expansion side had a shot at the playoffs until recently.

Then came July and August, months that have seen the visitors concede four-plus goals four times. It’s unprecedented.

The Reds almost felt sorry for them.

“(Adrian Heath) didn’t say anything (post-game),” TFC bench boss Greg Vanney said, acknowledging the Orlando coach congratulated him. “I’m sure it’s frustrating when you can’t get anything going.

“Then you see your team go down a man. For him, I’m sure it’s a hopeless feeling. There’s really not an adjustment you can make that will change it.”

Orlando stymied the Reds for most of the first half on Saturday.

They were compact. They were composed. They were everything Heath predicted they’d be.

Then came the 36th minute, when City’s right fullback, Rafael Ramos, arrived late for a challenge on Justin Morrow.

Referee Jose Carlos Rivero didn’t hesitate, brandishing a straight red card that, while harsh, wasn’t the wrong call.

If you can believe it, the teams entered halftime goalless before the Reds lit up City’s Tally Hall for five second-half goals.

“They were stepping out less to pressure us,” Vanney said of 10-man Orlando. “The ball needed to move quickly. We needed to force them to shift to open up gaps. It helped that we got an early goal in the second half.”

Needing a big performance from Michael Bradley, the U.S. international went coast-to-coast in the 46th minute after recovering possession in midfield.

He beat Orlando’s Aurelien Collin in the penalty area before squaring a cross that Marky Delgado finished off.

Then the flood gates opened.

League MVP candidate Sebastian Giovinco collected his 17th goal of the season in the 57th minute after lashing a free kick off the post and in to double TFC’s lead.

The Reds added to the rout with 20 minutes remaining, when Morrow finished off another Bradley cross to make it three.

Second-half substitute Jozy Altdiore broke his slump in the 82nd minute when he finished off a PK to make it 4-0.

Before anyone had time to look up, Altidore scored with his head at the back post to make it five.

After dropping Altidore from his starting lineup on Saturday, Vanney’s hoping the U.S. international’s second-half brace will break him out of a scoring slump that has plagued his Designated Player for months.

And when you consider the 25-year-old is making in the neighbourhood of $4.5-million annually, the goals had to start coming.

“It’s good (that Altidore) got that sensation of hitting the back of the net,” Vanney said. The second goal was really good because we got him in front of goal.

“Those are the areas we want to get him in. We want to get him in front of goal and in the box so he can be the goal-scorer he’s capable of being.”

In terms of results, this was one Toronto FC absolutely needed.

The nervous energy surrounding TFC’s front office has dissipated for the time being.

After Toronto received back-to-back drubbings at the hands of Sporting Kansas City and the New York Red Bulls, the overwhelming thought pre-game was Saturday’s match was a must-win — for this staff at least.

“I did (look at this match as a must-win),” Vanney said. “We made some adjustments and we sorted out some things.

“I didn’t say it was a must-win to the group. They very much know where we are and where everybody is and they know the importance of these home games.”

It doesn’t get any bigger than the next one.

The Reds host the Montreal Impact — and some guy named Didier Drogba — next Saturday in a match that will undoubtedly be massive in determining future playoff positioning.

Win that and Toronto FC will almost guarantee themselves a post-season berth. Lose and, well, it’s off to Seattle for a difficult match with a lot more to play for in September.

“I’ll say it again: We have a lot of games left,” Bradley said. “The loss last weekend didn’t spell the end of the world and today’s win doesn’t mean we’ll go undefeated from here on in.

“We understand that. I’m not sure people on the outside do sometimes. But that’s part of it. It’s up to us to deal with that.”

It’s now up to the Reds to bring themselves back down to Earth after sweeping the season series — with a total scoreline of 11-1 over three games — against Orlando.

They won’t see them again for a while. They may never see Heath, whose job is very much in jeopardy, again.

Next weekend’s match is just as big, if not bigger now.

The Montreal Impact are considered a threat to finish top three in the East following a slow start to the season.

They’ll present a much sterner test than the lowly expansion side that limped out of here Saturday.

Orlando City lost it’s dignity in a season that has suddenly spiraled out of control.

For once, it’s Toronto doing the punishing.


Orlando City has more ejections than wins this season.

It’s not even close.

When Rafael Ramos received a straight red card in the 36th minute on Saturday, it was the 10th time an Orlando City player had been ejected this season.

Adrian Winter’s second caution late in the second half made it 11.

Playing a man — or two men — down so often makes it impossible to get results in this league.

There were questions, though, as to whether Ramos should have been sent off in the first place — a decision by referee Jose Carlos Rivero that changed the complexion of the match completely.

In a written statement post-game, Rivero told reporters Ramos “endangered the safety of his opponent” when he lunged in on TFC’s Justin Morrow.

According to Sportsnet, Orlando City head coach Adrian Heath will appeal the red card to league headquarters.

Earth to Heath: There’s no chance you’ll win.

“In my opinion it was a very aggressive challenge,” TFC coach Greg Vanney said post-game. “There’s always a fine line when you’re coming in late on somebody and stomping down on somebody.

“It’s not for me to decide. It’s up to us to take advantage of the situation.”

Considering the final scoreline, I’d say they exploited it as much as they could have.


New first-choice ’keeper Chris Konopka expects more work next week.

Much more, actually.

“I’m going to have to watch (the Montreal) game tonight,” Konopka told the Toronto Sun after having a laugh in a 5-0 win over Orlando City on Saturday.

As is typical when a team is up a man at home, Konopka didn’t have much to do, facing just one shot on goal over the course of 90 minutes.

Konopka was inserted on Saturday ahead of former No. 1 Joe Bendik following last week’s 3-0 loss in New York, ending weeks of speculation that head coach Greg Vanney would make a change.

“Every goalkeeper has been through that,” Konopka said of the back-and-forth with the bench. “You have to battle through it and take every day as it comes and do what you can to help your team out.

“Me and Joe have a great relationship, which is key. The goalkeepers work together. You have to have some kind of competition and respect and understand that we’re both trying to get the job done.

“When I stepped in when he got hurt he was supportive of me.”

But considering Bendik is on close to three times more money than Konopka is, things are bound to get hairy.

There’s also the question of timing.

Should TFC be swapping out ’keepers with the playoffs right around the corner?

After all, there’s something to be said for consistency.

It will be interesting to see how fast Vanney goes back to Bendik should Konopka produce a questionable moment or two.

By: rson

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