Game: Philadelphia Union vs. Orlando City SC
Date: Sunday, October 25th
Time: 5:00 PM
Venue: PPL Park
Television: The Comcast Network
At last, the 2015 season will end for the Philadelphia Union - and probably for Orlando City as well. The Union have endured a miserable campaign that has seen turnover at almost every position - including CEO - and are most likely looking to just get it over with and get started on the 2016 season's preparations. Orlando City needs to win by at least eight and have the New England Revolution lose in order to squeak into the playoffs in their inaugural season. Having seen the Union's match against the New York Red Bulls last week and looking at Orlando's roster, this is more of an "improbability" than an "impossibility".
What Orlando City will look like
It all depends on whether Adrian Heath wants to try and get that last playoff spot or if he thinks the playoffs are too far out of reach. If it's the former, expect to see the return of Brazilian legend Kaka who is returning from national team duty. If it's the latter, we may see minutes given to Bryan Rochez, the Honduran Designated Player who has three goals and only appeared in 16 of Orlando's 33 matches, or to ex-Philadelphia Union attacking midfielder Pedro Ribeiro, who has appeared in 17 matches, scoring two goals and contributing two assists. Kaka/Rochez/Ribeiro will be up top with Canadian wunderkind Cyle Larin, who has a mind-blowing 17 goals in his rookie season. Out wide will most likely be Carlos Rivas and Adrian Winter, with Darwin Ceren and Cristian Higuita forming the double-pivot at central defensive midfielder in OCSC's 4-2-3-1. The back line will most likely consist of Luke Boden, Seb Hines, Aurelien Colin, and Corey Ashe. In goal, look for Josh Ford to get the start for Tally Hall, whose season came to an unfortunate end last week against New York City FC when he injured his ACL.
What Philadelphia will look like
It may be time to experiment a little for Jim Curtin, as there are jobs up for grabs for next season. He may elect to get one more good look at Bryan Sylvestre in goal before sending him back to the Carolina RailHawks, or he may opt to give incumbent Andre Blake the 90 minutes. On the back line, we may see Fabinho rested in favor of Ray Gaddis on the left, or Gaddis on the right instead of Andrew Wenger. Wenger may go back to center back this week - a position he hasn't played since college - due to the end of Steven Vitoria's reign of error. The DP center back was subbed off at the half of last week's match against RBNY after getting burned on three New York goals and picking up a yellow card - and the one match ban for yellow card accumulation that came with it. Wenger or Ethan White will surely pair with Richie Marquez at center back. In Philadelphia's double-pivot central midfield pairing, look for Vincent Nogueira to start with either Michael Lahoud, Brian Carroll, or Zach Pfeffer - again all depending on how Jim Curtin wants to approach this match. If you're looking to solidify a pairing with Nogueira for next year, you play Lahoud. If you're looking to give the young kid one more opportunity to prove he can play at this level, you go with Pfeffer. And if you're looking to give one of the classiest guys in the league one more run before sending him into another offseason of career contemplation, you go with Carroll. The top four should remain the same however, with Tranquillo Barnetta, Cristian Maidana, and Sebastien Le Toux comprising the attacking midfield with Fernando Aristeguieta up top. The midfield trio should get reps in to keep building on the rapport they'll need next season, while Aristeguieta needs to prove he's worth bringing in from FC Nantes for a hefty transfer fee and a DP salary
What to expect
If Orlando scores early like New York did last week, all bets are off and look for the Lions to try and score as often as possible. If the Union can bog things down and not concede the early goal, Orlando may look to next season and try to escape without injuries. It may be #DecisionDay for the rest of the league, but for these clubs the only decisions will likely be about 2016.