ORLANDO, Fla.- Jozy Altidore pulled Toronto FC out of their four-game slump and piled on the home misery for Orlando City FC as he pulled the trigger on the two clinical moments that were enough to separate these win-starved teams.
Altidore’s 50th minute opener, from a quickly-taken free-kick, saw the big striker run at the heart of the Lions defense, brush past Sebastian Hines and fire in a low, diagonal shot that went off the fingertips of goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts and the far post.
His second came as Orlando were caught cold chasing the game seven minutes from time, with Altidore bundling the ball in from eight yards after bringing down Benoit Cheyrou’s long pass.
It was enough to end Toronto’s run of four straight defeats on their seven-game road marathon to start the season, while it extended Orlando's barren run at home to four games to start their first MLS campaign.
Orlando coach Adrian Heath threw on attacking subs Carlos Rivas, Bryan Rochez and Danny Mwanga in a bid to salvage something in front of another 30,000 crowd, but the final effort was largely disjointed while their earlier possession-dominant spell failed to provide any real threat against a patient defensive Reds front.
Ultimately, a game that had been billed as a showcase for some of the league's marquee names fell rather flat, with Orlando unable to unlock the door of the massed Reds defense and Toronto content to sit back in numbers.
Heath pulled a minor surprise by opting for veteran Eric Avila in midfield instead of Colombian Cristian Higuita, while young U.S. prospect Tyler Turner made his expected appearance at right back instead of the suspended Rafael Ramos.
Greg Vanney opted for two changes from the lineup that lost 3-2 at FC Dallas, leaving out midfield duo Collen Warner and Jonathan Osorio and recalling French midfielder Benoit Cheyrou and former U.S. national team striker Robbie Findlay, albeit with Findlay pushed more into midfield duty.
Toronto’s vaunted attack was forced to live off scraps for much of the first half, winning barely 40% possession as the home team pressed without much penetration, their patient, probing game repeatedly falling short in the final third.
Chances were few and sporadic, with the best arriving as early as the second minute from a Reds corner that was only half-cleared for Jackson to fire a first-time volley towards the top right corner, with Ricketts flying across to parry it aside acrobatically.
Five minutes later, a Kaka ball forward eluded Cyle Larin but provided an opening for Kevin Molino and his instant shot was well blocked by goalkeeper Joe Bendik.
Avila had two sights of goal but failed to seriously trouble Bendik either time while Altidore carried what little threat the visitors managed, heading one cross too high and then seeing another promising opening blocked for a corner by Hines.
Sebastian Giovinco almost made it 2-0 nine minutes from the end but his side-footed shot bounced off Ricketts and the outside of the post, but that just left Altidore to apply the coup de grace moments later.
Rochez might have salvaged a grain of consolation for the Lions at the death but his powerful shot from the angle of the six-yard box was never on target and summed up Orlando’s lack of real attacking menace.
Orlando will have a week off from league action to reorganize and reflect before they try once more for that elusive home win with the visit of New England on May 8, while Toronto continue their long road tour next Saturday at Philadelphia.