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Question the Enemy: The Mane Land gets us ready for Orlando City

Logan Oliver from our SB Nation friends at The Mane Land answers our questions about Orlando City

CJ Sapong celebrating one of six goals the Union scored against Orlando City in a meaningless game last October
Trey Madara

Orlando City returns to Talen Energy Stadium tomorrow looking for revenge after a 6-1 loss to the Union in their last visit to Chester last October.

To know what to expect of this season’s edition of the Lions, we talked to Logan Oliver, a writer at the SB Nation website The Mane Land.

1. The Lions were down 2-0 with 10 minutes left against Portland Timbers. How did they pull out the win and do you think the momentum of that wild comeback will be riding with the team for their visit to Chester?

Getting the win against Portland came down to the substitutions and Dom Dwyer. Rookie Chris Mueller and Stéfano Pinho replaced Josué Colmán and Justin Meram, respectively, and brought an extra level of intensity for the final 15 minutes. They’re far more direct players and put a different kind of pressure on the Timbers’ back line that finally broke through with Mueller’s goal with ten minutes to play. RJ Allen was also instrumental at right back, coming on around the hour mark and getting forward including the assist on the final goal.

The complete comeback had a lot to do with Dwyer’s effort and determination to score at the same time. Dom drew the contact in the box that earned the penalty to draw level and then he willed his way to the winner, getting up off the turf to beat two defenders and Jake Gleeson.

This was Orlando’s second dramatic comeback in two weeks after clawing back to beat the New York Red Bulls 4-3 the prior weekend. Ideally the team will build on those results going into Philadelphia, but even though the attack has shown the capability to score when it needs to, the defense still needs to improve and not force the offense to play from behind yet again.

2. How have Sacha Klejstan and Justin Meram adjusted to the team and what has each player brought to the attack so far?

Meram had the difficult task of being the only veteran attacker for the first few weeks of the season with Dwyer injured and Kljestan suspended and he held his own. Justin brings an extra creative outlet out wide and his ability to take on defenders and hold on to the ball is something the Lions have never really had. Kljestan isn’t nearly as exciting on the ball, but his vision is obvious. He routinely finds teammates in acres of space and has been the gear that keeps the offense ticking over. While the attention will naturally be drawn to the flashier players like Meram and Colmán, having a player that can pull strings like Sacha can has definitely made the transition from Kaká nearly seamless.

There’s still a lot to be done to get the front four on the same page, but it’s obvious that each one is incredibly skilled and it’s a level of attacking talent OCSC has never really had at its disposal in MLS.

3. A certain free-kick goal comes to mind whenever the Union play Orlando City but after a closed-door scrimmage where each team had a player suspended for three games (Ilsinho also hurt himself in that game) down at your place, is it fair to say that we have a budding rivalry?

The Tranquillo Barnetta goal was definitely a point of contention back in 2016, but with how much the roster has changed since then it likely wouldn’t have an inspirational affect on anyone other than Joe Bendik. But Dillon Powers also suffered an ankle injury in that preseason scrimmage which kept him out for a few weeks and tempers were clearly raised.

Orlando has long been looking for an MLS team to call a rival and Philly could definitely be in that camp. I suppose we’ll have to wait and see if this weekend’s match is as physical as the scrimmage to find out.

4. In closing, can you give an update on any injuries, a projected lineup and score prediction?

Orlando could finally have all of its key pieces in the 18 on Friday. Uri Rosell has been dealing with a knee injury, but he has been training in full since last week and is a candidate for selection. Jonathan Spector is back in concussion protocol though and is day-to-day. Kreis will likely roll out the lineup from last week:

Joe Bendik; Scott Sutter, Jonathan Spector, Lamine Sané, Mohamed El-Munir; Will Johnson, Yoshimar Yotún; Josué Colmán, Sacha Kljestan, Justin Meram; Dom Dwyer

The Lions almost always struggle with both CJ Sapong and David Accam. This feels like a 1-1 draw.