Date: Saturday, August 8th; 7:30pm EDT
Place: Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Florida
TV: The Comcast Network
While the teams haven't met in Major League Soccer before, the teams did draw 1-1 in the Disney Wide World of Sports Preseason Tournament last year before Orlando made the jump. While three former Union players have worn the Orlando kit, only Pedro Ribeiro is a contributing member of the roster after Amobi Okugo was traded to Sporting Kansas City. Danny Mwanga has failed to make an impact on the team.
It's no secret that "Home is where the heart is," but the Union have made it no secret they prefer not to play on the road this season. The Union have only recorded a single win and a single draw in ten road games this season. The only win has come in New Jersey, but since that 2-0 win the Union have slumped to 4 straight road losses by a combined 12-5 scoreline. The most embarrassing of them a 5-1 rout in LA.
It is worth noting that while Orlando is coming off of a bad road loss of their own in Toronto, the last match they played in the Citrus Bowl was a 5-2 thumping of Columbus Crew. The purple masses will be ready to see more of that as they return home.
The Weighing of Priorities
It is getting to that point where the season has got away from the Union and there's little to nothing left for them to play for in the league. I'll save the rant about the state of the Union for another article, but this leaves the Union with some real questions about where the priorities fall at this time of year. Just four days later the Union will host the Chicago Fire in the semi-final of the US Open Cup, the only chance to earn silverware this season.
With that in mind, is it worth it to risk taking a full first team to Orlando in case of adding injuries to the growing list of the Union's walking wounded? Edu has picked up a knock, Wenger is still recovering, Noguiera is a no go, and Carroll has to be running out of gas at this time in the season at his age. Add in the unknowns of Vitoria, Lahoud, Blake, and Aristeguieta leaves this as an opportunity to get some fresh faces into the roster and give them some playing time, assessing their spot on the team, and regrouping with some fresh starters on Wednesday. Although, don't count on anything changing as Curtin has shown a tendency to stay stuck on a lineup and ride it as long as there aren't any injuries or suspensions.
Shake Up in Orlando
In a span of a week defender Sean St. Ledger and forward Martin Paterson have agreed to "mutual contract terminations" for reasons only being officially called a "serious breach of club policy" and "personal reasons" respectively. Rumors have said both players skipped their team flight back from the team's visit to New York City, St. Ledger apparently was involved in a night club fight, and both players missed the mandatory team practice two days later.
Paterson's release gives Orlando some cap relief and an extra international spot, while St.Ledger will be tied to Orlando in both cap and international spots until he is picked up within the league or lands elsewhere. Could the unattached centerback be a target for a Union backline that can't seem to keep the ball out of the net?
Lineups and Guesses
Orlando XI: Hall, Ashe, Hines, Collin, Ramos, Higuita, Ceren, Boden, Kaka, Avila, Larin
Philadelphia XI: McCarthy, Fabinho, White, Marquez, Gaddis, Barnetta, Carroll, LeToux, Maidana, Ayuk, Sapong
Nothing points toward the Union putting any priority to this game despite Curtin's presser saying all the politically correct things to say in this situation. Just like the LA rout, the Union's opponent is looking to knock the Union to the side to prove a point and make strides in bettering their position in the league. There is a powerful offense in purple waiting to take full advantage to a poor backline coming to visit. If this one ends in less than a 3 goal win for Orlando the Union will have a positive result.
Braces from Larin and Kaka offset Sapong's 8th of the season as the Union move on without batting an eye to turn their attention to Chicago as it is US Open Cup or bust!