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Three questions with Michael Citro of The Mane Land

We spoke with Michael Citro from The Mane Land, SB Nation's Orlando City SC blog, about what to expect from the Lions in Wednesday's match against the Philadelphia Union.

The Philadelphia Union’s Tranquillo Barnetta hits a free kick against Orlando City SC at Talen Energy Stadium.
Trey Madara / Brotherly Game

Brotherly Game) The last time Orlando City played Philadelphia, they were without left back Brek Shea. What does it mean to OCSC to have him back in the lineup?

The Mane Land) Well, it depends who you ask, I suppose. Some see him as a terrible left back who should be playing left wing. Some see him as a guy still learning a new position and showing signs of improvement but still lacks consistency. But whatever you consider him, Orlando City has been a better team with Brek Shea than without him over its first season and a third in MLS. That has been easily seen in the team's record when he is in or out of the lineup.

Shea is better when he's on the same page as whoever is playing the left side of Orlando's attacking midfield. He works well with Adrian Winter or Carlos Rivas but has not been in sync with Antonio Nocerino, which is not a surprise given that they haven't been on the same team very long and Nocerino isn't an attacking player in the traditional sense. The best defense Shea plays is when he's forcing whoever is on the opponent's right side to defend rather than attack.

Orlando's attack is more potent when Shea is in the lineup but if the Lions are on their back foot, he can be a liability. I'd say he adds more good than bad when he's on the pitch.

tBG) Prior to the 2-1 win over the Montreal Impact, Orlando was winless in six. What was the cause of that, and what changed against Montreal?

TML) There are multiple answers to that question. Orlando lost out on opportunities to win due to horrific officiating decisions. Draws could have been wins and losses could have been draws. Philadelphia was the beneficiary of one such call -- or rather the lack of a call.In some cases, the Lions simply played like a dumpster fire in the middle of a tire fire. Examples include the loss at New York Red Bulls and the loss at Sporting Kansas City. Orlando allowed 26 shots at New York and 34 at SKC. And in some games (at New England) they simply dug a hole and had to rescue a point at the end.

Against Montreal it didn't seem that anything had changed...and then it did. The Lions switched on and started playing their game, moving the ball quickly and decisively and creating scoring chances. They only converted two but luckily that's all they needed. They should have scored more goals. Adrian Heath changed the lineup, sitting Kevin Molino and Antonio Nocerino. Kaká played like the MLS All-Star he is, Cyle Larin found his finishing touch, and Cristian Higuita and Servando Carrasco protected the back line from being put under too much pressure. It worked the way it's supposed to work. That's not always the case with this team, but the Lions have shown they can beat any team in the league when they've got their game working properly.

tBG) Orlando gave up a lot for Antonio Nocerino, only to have him be rather underwhelming thus far. What will he need to do to make it all worth it to the club?

TML) Nocerino has become the popular whipping boy in Orlando and in truth he doesn't seem to fit the way this team likes to play. Heath essentially changed his preferred formation for him, moving from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-3-2-1. When that wasn't working, he went to a 4-3-3 or back to his old 4-2-3-1 and tried to shoehorn the Italian into the attacking midfield, but he's not a left wing.

Antonio is hardly the first European (or African, or South American, etc.) to come to MLS and have trouble adjusting. His situation was exacerbated by missing preseason camp and from not having been a regular at AC Milan for awhile. He hadn't played a competitive match since August. Steven Gerrard, who is a native English speaker, is only now adjusting to life in Major League Soccer. Has Portland's Lucas Melano adjusted yet? This move will be worthwhile if Nocerino can find his game in MLS. And if he doesn't, it will be one of those moves that sounded good but didn't quite work out.

Injuries/suspensions/other news of note: DM Darwin Ceren has a high ankle sprain and will be out. D Rafael Ramos and D Seb Hines left Saturday's game with injuries. Their status is unknown but I wouldn't expect them to play Wednesday.

Predicted lineup: I would expect some changes from the weekend, with Molino probably returning to replace Adrian Winter as the starter at RAM. The two defenders will obviously require replacements. I think we'll see something like this: Joe Bendik; Brek Shea, Tommy Redding, David Mateos, Kevin Alston; Cristian Higuita, Servando Carrasco; Carlos Rivas, Kaká, Kevin Molino; Cyle Larin.

There's a chance Nocerino might figure in the lineup somewhere -- probably for Rivas or Carrasco, or maybe both if the team comes out in a 4-3-2-1 -- or Winter could replace Rivas.

For our three questions with The Mane Land, follow this link.