Call them Torlando: Toronto making home in Florida for 2021, and the Whitecaps are heading their for a Saturday showdown with their Canadian rivals

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The Vancouver Whitecaps and Toronto FC can click their heels together all they want, but they’re not going home again — at least not for the foreseeable future.

It’ll be a long trek down the COVID brick road before the two Major League Soccer sides can call Canada home again, so they’re focused on making the best of their respective temporary accommodations.

The Caps have been in Sandy, Utah, sharing the thin air at Rio Tinto Stadium with Real Salt Lake.

TFC is a tenant at Exploria Stadium in the Sunshine State, where they’re joint tenants with Orlando City and the Orlando Pride. So you could dub them “Torlando” as they prepare to “host” the Whitecaps on Saturday.

“I’ve been to six TFC home openers, and in my time here this is by far the furthest from normality,” said Toronto goalkeeper Alex Bono.

However, there is one slice of normality for them: The mood that comes with playing a rival.

“Any time we play any of these Canadian teams, everyone’s up for it,” said Bono. “We want to be the best team in Canada every single year. That took a hit last week and now we have a chance to rebound and show that (the Montreal loss) was a fluke. That’s not us. We have another gear. We’re better than that.”

“Like against Montreal, we know there’s history. There’s Canadian bragging rights in some ways,” said Toronto coach Chris Armas. “That, before any X’s and O’s, that’s so much a part of it. It’s a competition that we have to understand, that this is an intensity that’s different.”


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Both Portland and Toronto found that out last week when they lost to rivals they were expected to beat. The Timbers fell 1-0 to Vancouver while Montreal downed Toronto 4-2, and both clubs denied the short turnaround from their CONCACAF Champions League games played any role in their tired legs.

Toronto has had a week to rest and get healthy, but will be without Designated Player Alejandro Pozuelo, midfielder Liam Fraser and centre back Chris Mavinga, while midfielder Jonathan Osorio and forwards Jozy Altidore and Ayo Akinola are questionable.

On the Whitecaps side, centre-back Derek Cornelius is available for first-team selection after missing most of pre-season and the season opener with a right knee sprain. But No. 1 CB Erik Godoy (calf) remains out, along with Leo Owusu and Tosaint Ricketts. Ali Adnan remains mired in visa limbo, meaning Cristián Gutiérrez will step in at left back again.

TFC has adopted the Red Bull style brought in by Armas — who replaced Greg Vanney in January after he left for the L.A. Galaxy — utilizing an aggressive, high-pressing model of play. While leaving them vulnerable to well-placed long balls — we’re looking at you, Cap Michael Baldisimo — they can run opponents ragged and force teams into turnovers.



Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Toronto FC

12 p.m., Exploria Stadium (Orlando, Florida). TV: CTV. Radio: 730 AM

With the hot, humid temperatures expected to hover around 30 C at kickoff, expect Whitecaps coach Marc Dos Santos to use his full allotment of five substitutes, which could mean the first action for Bruno Gaspar, Caio Alexandre or David Egbo, all of whom will available for action off the bench.


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The Whitecaps traveled on Friday to Orlando for their first “road” game of the year, even if they’ve been playing away for most of the past year. Vancouver was 6-0-5 at home and 3-0-9 away in 2020, but only four of those games (2-2-0) were at B.C. Place Stadium.

“We won a lot of games on the road last year. A lot,” said Dos Santos. “We never played in Vancouver. We won a lot on the road. We beat L.A., LAFC in Portland, we beat Salt Lake in Portland, we beat San Jose in Portland. We were never home. So for me to play in Portland or in Salt Lake, I don’t consider that home. That’s number one.

“Number two, the in and out is difficult. We prefer when we’re able to sleep at least one night in the city where we’re playing. That’s gonna be the fact against Toronto. We’ll be able to sleep there the night before the game in Orlando. (But) we know that we have to get some points on the road.”

While they have but one game of film to study, Armas sees a different opponent in Vancouver than editions of the past, and is expecting a dogfight on Saturday.

“Against Portland, they showed an even better level of everything that they’ve tried to do there. I think that it’s clear to see how they’re dangerous,” he said. “On set pieces and transition, they’re a very organized, well-coached team. I see a togetherness that is strong and I think there’s some momentum building in their camp.


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“They showed all of that (last week). They put Portland in a really difficult game, and had lots of moments of controlling things. They created a lot of chances, too, in transition and they obviously have some incredible pieces,” he said, citing Lucas Cavallini, Deiber Caicedo and Cristian Dajome as “dangerous” threats.

“These guys are a handful. I think we’re understanding them pretty well right now, and we’ll have a plan going in.”

NOTES: The Whitecaps continue to be linked to Brazilian talents, the latest being Santos FC’s Gabriel Pirani. A Tribuna reported that the Caps had offered $3 million for 80 per cent of his rights. This comes just 24 hours after several Brazilian outlets reported Vancouver was in heavy talks to acquire Grêmio midfielder Jean Pyerre. Grêmio owns 60 per cent of Pyerre, with an investment group and the player splitting the remaining 40 per cent 30/10. The informal offer was reported to be $6 million for 50 per cent ownership.

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