ORLANDO, Fla. — An early goal by Canadian Tesho Akindele helped Orlando City SC extend its unbeaten start to the MLS season to six games with a 1-0 victory over Toronto FC on Saturday night.
Orlando (3-0-3) is one of three unbeaten sides in Major League Soccer, along with the Seattle Sounders (5-0-1) and Nashville SC (1-0-4). Its six-match undefeated start is a club record, surpassing the previous mark of four in 2016.
After collecting just one point and being outscored 8-4 in its first three league games, Toronto (1-3-2) came into Saturday's contest having taken four points and outscored the opposition 3-1 over its previous two matches.
Toronto manufactured chances Saturday but lacked a clinical finish against a well organized Orlando defence. And it paid for an early defensive letdown.
Toronto pressed in injury time, making for a wild finish with Orlando 'keeper Pedro Gallese stopping shots by Nick DeLeon and Yeferson Soteldo in the 96th minute -- and Toronto goalkeeper Alex Bono coming forward for the final seconds.
Dutch winger Silvester van der Water, acquired in February from Heracles Almelo of the Dutch top-flight, made his MLS debut for Orlando and set up Akindele for the opening goal in the 12th minute.
After an Omar Gonzalez clearing header went to Orlando's Chris Mueller at midfield, the ball made its way four passes later to the right flank where van der Water sent a cross past Chris Mavinga who had been dragged wide from his centre back position. Junior Orso and Akindele were both left unmarked with a gaping hole in the middle of the Toronto defence.
The cross found Akindele, who headed it past Bono for his second of the season — and the 39th of his MLS career.
Orlando also scored early, in the seventh minute, in last week's 1-0 win over D.C. United.
Orlando came into the game tied with Seattle in conceding a league-low 0.40 goals a game. In comparison, Toronto ranks 25th in the league, giving up an average of 1.80 goals an outing.
Gallese, Orlando's Peruvian international 'keeper, recorded his fourth shutout of the season, which is one more than his total in 19 games in 2020. Orlando has given up just two goals this season, one of which came from a penalty kick.
Orlando had allowed just 15 shots on target in its first five games, the lowest in the league.
Toronto is using Exploria Stadium as its home base this season during the pandemic. But Saturday's match was officially a home game for Orlando.
A limited number of fans were allowed in Saturday night.
Toronto coach Chris Armas made two changes to the starting 11 that rallied for a 1-1 tie at New York City FC last week. Canadian midfielder Jonathan Osorio, who had seen just 29 minutes in the first five league games due to a thigh issue, and Mark Delgado slotted in in place of Tsubasa Endoh and Ayo Akinola.
An unhappy-looking Osorio exited in the 55th minute, with a hand on the back of his right thigh.
Armas continued with a 4-2-3-1 formation with Brazil's Auro alongside captain Michael Bradley in front of the backline.
Orlando made three changes to the team that beat D.C. United last time out. Portuguese star attacking midfielder Nani was suspended and fullback Joao Moutinho injured, with forward Benji Michel dropping to the bench. Brazilian fullback Ruan remained out through injury.
It was a high-energy first half, albeit one with relatively few gilt-edged chances.
Gallese made a fine reflex save on a deflected shot by Auro in the 24th minute after a goalmouth scramble prompted by Richie Laryea's slashing run into the Orlando penalty box.
Bono stopped van der Water's one-timer off a fine cross from Mueller in the 30th minute.
At the other end, Toronto's Soteldo came close in the 32nd minute when he beat a defender and Gallese to the side of the Orlando goal only to see defender Robin Jansson get a boot to his attempted shot/cross.
Akindele had a chance for his second in the 49th minute when he was put in alone, but his shot went wide. At the other end, Soteldo delivered some dangerous balls from the left flank but to no avail.
Akindele had another fine chance in the 67th but his weak shot was stopped by Bono. The Toronto 'keeper also denied Michel in the 84th minute. Seconds later, Antonio Carlos' header off an Orlando corner flashed just high.
Substitutes Jacob Shaffelburg and Akinola added to the Toronto attack and Orlando defender Rodrigo Schlegel was forced to make a goal-line clearance in the 71st minute off a low Shaffelburg cross.
Shaffelburg, who had Toronto's tying goal last week in New York, shot wide when Gallese coughed up a rebound as time wound down.
Toronto was without Spanish playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo (thigh) for the 10th straight game in 2021. The influential designated player was injured in the pre-season and has missed all of TFC's league and Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League play.
Former Orlando forward Dom Dwyer (thigh) did not dress for Toronto.
NOTES: Neither side had lost this season at Exploria Stadium prior to Saturday. Coming into the game, Orlando was 1-0-2 there while Toronto was 1-0-1 … Saturday's game was the first meeting between the two sides since a 1-1 tie Aug. 10, 2019, at BMO Field … Toronto plays next Saturday at Columbus.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 22, 2021
The Canadian Press