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Orlando City travels to Toronto looking to bounce back after Atlanta United loss

Atlanta United FC midfielder Ezequiel Barco and Orlando City FC midfielder Oriol Rosell battle for the ball during the second half at Orlando City Stadium. (Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports)

The last time Orlando City lost a match, the club responded by rattling off a franchise-record six consecutive wins.

Before falling 2-1 at home to rival Atlanta United on Sunday, it had been a while since Orlando City had to deal with a loss. The Lions’ last defeat before Sunday’s game was a 2-0 loss to NYCFC on March 17, before the club had the services of striker Dom Dwyer.

Plus, the NYCFC loss was Sacha Kljestan’s first match with the Lions, Cristian Higuita hadn’t yet found his form and coach Jason Kreis was still utilizing a 4-4-2 formation with a diamond-shaped midfield.

The loss to NYCFC might as well have occurred in a different season when compared to last week’s loss to Atlanta United. And Kreis is looking forward to seeing how his club responds to losing this time around. Orlando City (6-3-1, 19 points) takes on Toronto FC (2-6-1, 7 points) at 8 p.m. on Friday at BMO Field.

“It’s a really difficult place to go, which I do think says something because how we have taken this emotional loss after having six wins a row,” Kreis said. “So it will be, as it always is, about the response.”

Toronto FC might be shorthanded, but the Reds are still the reigning MLS Cup champions. A poor recent run of form doesn’t mean Orlando City can relax, Kreis said. He also referenced the last time Orlando City had a Friday match – the Lions recorded their only clean sheet of the season in a 2-0 win over the Philadelphia Union.

“I think the confidence needs to come from within right now,” Kreis said.

“In the second half against Atlanta, I think we can take a lot of confidence from that performance and say that when we really put our mind to it and play the right way – what we’re looking to do – we can be quite effective.

“As we go through the season, we know we’re going to have multiple times where we’re playing three times in a week, so it’s important to see how our guys react to a bit of a short turnaround. Last time we did it, we did quite well.”

The “we’re focused on us” mindset has been something of a mantra this season, and it’s something players repeated ahead of Friday’s match.

“We want to play our game,” centerback Amro Tarek said. “We want to win each game. We don’t care [who we play against].”

Orlando City is also focused on not giving up the first goal. Despite some success this season, Orlando City has conceded first in eight of out of 10 matches.

“I think we can all make a concerted effort to be better defensively,” said right back Will Johnson. “A lot of that starts with the ball.”

The Lions will play Friday’s match with a missing player of their own. Midfielder Yoshi Yotún, who has been named to the MLS Team of the Week twice this season, will sit out Friday’s match after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season last week against Atlanta.

Holding midfielder Uri Rosell will likely step into the starting XI with Yotún sidelined. Rosell played the entire second half against the Five Stripes and – according to Kreis – played his best match of the season.

“Uri’s a high-level player,” Kreis said. “That’s why we brought him here. He’s been a player that’s been waiting for his opportunity to start in a match. He’s come into some matches had some really positive contributions. I would say [against Atlanta] was his most positive one. Very, very sound tactical player, but can also get around the park and made tackles.”

Rosell said he’s put the Atlanta match behind him, as has the rest of the club. He said the Lions are ready, despite a short week to prepare.

“I think the good think about soccer is you’re just looking forward [to] the next game,” he said. “Of course, we felt that we could [get] a better result, but we have to think forward. We have a very good opponent in front of us. Hopefully we can win.”

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