Brotherly Game) How did you and your writers fare during Hurricane Matthew? We hope everyone is safe and accounted for.
Michael Citro, The Mane Land) Well, first of all, thanks for asking. Most of us came through with nothing worse than debris in our yard to clean up, but a few of our writers lost power for anywhere from several hours to several days. Our staff living on the coast got the worst of it, of course, but I think everyone was back to normal by Monday or Tuesday. We got maximum winds of around 60 mph where I live and our neighborhood got nothing worse than some debris, the sign out front was half gone, and a couple of trees and street signs were leaning at about 45-degree angles.
Mother Nature is undefeated and even if the storm is out off the coast, it pays to be smart and safe and stay indoors. We were lucky enough not to lose power, so Friday was a great day to clear shows off the DVR while we rode out the wind and rain.
tBG) With Orlando City formally eliminated from the playoffs, give us a sense of who you think is playing for a position next year and who might mail it in for the last two matches.
TML) I think everyone is playing for a position next year with the possible exceptions of Kaká and Joe Bendik. Jason Kreis has had a dozen games to assess the players he has and the club has mostly been healthy, so I believe he has a sense of what kind of skill sets everyone has. But he’s also looking for the right kind of attitude, and if players are going through the motions in these final two contests, they’re probably not going to be long for this team. Because Kreis came out and said as much this week in the media, I don’t expect anyone to mail it in, but you really never know. There may be some guys unhappy with their situation that we aren’t aware of, who could potentially not care that Kreis will be watching for effort the next two Sundays. The players on the back line have the most to prove, in my opinion.
tBG) Would you judge this season as a success for Orlando? Why or why not?
TML) There’s no question this was an unsuccessful season, because the team is out of playoff contention in a weak conference with two games to play. Any time you fire your coach in the middle of the year, things are not going well. This is an organization with “defy expectations” as a motto and a mantra. Missing the playoffs in the team’s first two seasons in MLS is not defying expectations, it’s meeting them.
No one expects expansion teams to make the playoffs early in their run, but our fellow 2015 newbies from New York City have managed it in their second season, so a lot of Orlando City fans (including us) are pretty salty about that, especially since the Lions have such a good record against them. This team has just seven wins all season long and two are against New York City FC. Four of them are against teams currently above the red line in the Eastern Conference. The Lions have shown they can beat these teams, but not with the consistency needed to stand among them at the end of the year. That’s disappointing, as are the two draws against Chicago and the myriad of dropped points. Wins become draws (14 of them!) and draws become losses, such as against Toronto a few weeks ago. There’s really not much to feel good about after a season like that.
tBG) What are you expecting to see from Orlando these last two matches? Experimenting with lineups and tactics? Perhaps playing some of the guys on the bubble of coming back next season?
TML) I would expect to see some combinations maybe we haven’t seen before and perhaps a bit of playing time for some of the guys who weren’t utilized as much in 2016. Jason Kreis has seen most of his regulars enough to evaluate them but perhaps there are guys like Tommy Redding, Cristian Higuita, Rafael Ramos and others who haven’t played much recently — whether due to injury or coaching decisions — who could see more of the field. Kreis tried a 4-4-2 diamond against Toronto that didn’t work as well as he’d like and we could see him go back to that again, in anticipation of a tactical overhaul for next year. The problem with Orlando City playing with two strikers is a lack of depth at the position.
Injuries, suspensions, etc.: Center back David Mateos is out with an MCL tear. Brek Shea has been banged up but is expected to back to full strength by the weekend although he hasn’t been starting much of late.
Predicted lineup: It’s difficult to know what Kreis will do with these last two matches but I’ll go with more of a usual lineup with the caveat that this could be completely wrong and no one should wager on this prediction: Joe Bendik; Luke Boden, Seb Hines, Jose Aja, Kevin Alston; Antonio Nocerino, Servando Carrasco; Kevin Molino, Kaká, Matias Perez Garcia; Cyle Larin.