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Whitecaps home in on Toronto FC … in Florida

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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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J.J. Adams Cristian Dájome, right, and the Vancouver Whitecaps won't have to worry about facing 2020 MLS MVP Alejandro Pozuelo when they travel to Orlando for Saturday's game against Toronto FC. Pozuelo is yet to feature in a game this season because of injury.Cristian Dájome, right, and the Vancouver Whitecaps won’t have to worry about facing 2020 MLS MVP Alejandro Pozuelo when they travel to Orlando for Saturday’s game against Toronto FC. Pozuelo is yet to feature in a game this season because of injury. Photo by Vaughn Ridley /Getty Images

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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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  <p> This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below. </p>     <h2>Article content</h2>  <p>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.</p> <p>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.</p> <p>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.</p> <p>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.</p> <h3>NEXT GAME</h3> <p>Saturday</p> <p><em>Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Toronto FC</em></p> <p>12 p.m., Exploria Stadium (Orlando, Florida). TV: CTV. Radio: 730 AM</p> <p>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.</p>  <h2>Advertisement</h2>      <p> This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below. </p>     <h2>Article content</h2> <p>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.</p> <p>“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.</p> <p>“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.”</p> <p>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.</p> <button type="button"></button><ol><li><a href="https://theprovince.com/sports/soccer/mls/vancouver-whitecaps/whitecaps-vancouver-linked-with-brazilian-playmaker-get-set-for-muggy-tfc-showdown" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img alt="Brazil's Gremio Jean Pyerre celebrates after scoring against Ecuador's Independiente del Valle during the Copa Libertadores tournament qualifying-round match at Gremio Arena in Porto Alegre, Brazil, last week. The Brazilian playmaker has been linked to the Vancouver Whitecaps." data-src="https://smartcdn.prod.postmedia.digital/theprovince/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/AFP_9823H7-e1619123326309.jpg?h=96&strip=all&quality=80" height="96" src="https://smartcdn.prod.postmedia.digital/theprovince/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/AFP_9823H7-e1619123326309.jpg?h=96&strip=all&quality=80,                                     https://smartcdn.prod.postmedia.digital/theprovince/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/AFP_9823H7-e1619123326309.jpg?h=192&strip=all&quality=80 2x,                                     https://smartcdn.prod.postmedia.digital/theprovince/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/AFP_9823H7-e1619123326309.jpg?h=288&strip=all&quality=80 3x" width="96" /><h3> Whitecaps: Vancouver linked with Brazilian playmaker, get set for muggy TFC showdown </h3></a></li><li><a href="https://theprovince.com/sports/soccer/mls/vancouver-whitecaps/whitecaps-1-timbers-0-vancouver-steps-out-on-the-front-foot" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img alt="Portland Timbers midfielder Diego Chara (21) and Vancouver Whitecaps FC forward Lucas Cavallini (9) battle in the first half at Rio Tinto Stadium." data-src="https://smartcdn.prod.postmedia.digital/theprovince/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/soccer-usa-van-pot-1-7.jpg?h=96&strip=all&quality=80" height="96" src="https://smartcdn.prod.postmedia.digital/theprovince/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/soccer-usa-van-pot-1-7.jpg?h=96&strip=all&quality=80,                                     https://smartcdn.prod.postmedia.digital/theprovince/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/soccer-usa-van-pot-1-7.jpg?h=192&strip=all&quality=80 2x,                                     https://smartcdn.prod.postmedia.digital/theprovince/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/soccer-usa-van-pot-1-7.jpg?h=288&strip=all&quality=80 3x" width="96" /><h3> Whitecaps 1, Timbers 0: Vancouver steps out on the front foot </h3></a></li><li><a href="https://theprovince.com/sports/soccer/mls/vancouver-whitecaps/pressure-feels-miles-away-for-mile-high-vancouver-whitecaps" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img alt="San Jose Earthquakes defender Nick Lima (24) heads the ball away from Vancouver Whitecaps defender Ali Adnan during at Providence Park." data-src="https://smartcdn.prod.postmedia.digital/theprovince/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/soccer-usa-van-sje-1-2.jpg?h=96&strip=all&quality=80" height="96" src="https://smartcdn.prod.postmedia.digital/theprovince/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/soccer-usa-van-sje-1-2.jpg?h=96&strip=all&quality=80,                                     https://smartcdn.prod.postmedia.digital/theprovince/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/soccer-usa-van-sje-1-2.jpg?h=192&strip=all&quality=80 2x,                                     https://smartcdn.prod.postmedia.digital/theprovince/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/soccer-usa-van-sje-1-2.jpg?h=288&strip=all&quality=80 3x" width="96" /><h3> Pressure feels miles away for mile-high Vancouver Whitecaps </h3></a></li></ol><button type="button"></button><p>“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.</p>  <h2>Advertisement</h2>      <p> This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below. </p>     <h2>Article content</h2> <p>“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.</p> <p>“These guys are a handful. I think we’re understanding them pretty well right now, and we’ll have a plan going in.”</p> <p>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.</p> <p><a href="mailto:jadams@postmedia.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener">jadams@postmedia.com</a></p> <p><a href="http://Twitter.com/TheRealJJAdams" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Twitter.com/TheRealJJAdams</a></p> <p><em><a href="mailto:vanweb@postmedia.com">CLICK HERE</a> to report a typo. </em></p> <p><em>Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email <a href="mailto:vantips@postmedia.com">vantips@postmedia.com</a>.</em></p>   <h2>Share this article in your social network</h2>       <h2>Advertisement</h2>      <p> This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below. </p>         <h2>The Province Headline News</h2> <p>Sign up to receive daily headline news from The Province, a division of Postmedia Network Inc.</p>    By clicking on the sign up button you consent to receive the above newsletter from Postmedia Network Inc. You may unsubscribe any time by clicking on the unsubscribe link at the bottom of our emails. Postmedia Network Inc. | 365 Bloor Street East, Toronto, Ontario, M4W 3L4 | 416-383-2300    <h2>Thanks for signing up!</h2> <p>A welcome email is on its way. If you don't see it please check your junk folder.</p> <p>The next issue of The Province Headline News will soon be in your inbox.</p>  <p> We encountered an issue signing you up. 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