Ahead of Thursday’s Philadelphia Union match in Orlando, I caught up with Ben Miller from The Mane Land to catch us up on how things have been going for Orlando City. You can read my answers to Ben’s questions on The Mane Land.
1.) Orlando is currently sitting in a respectable third in the Eastern Conference, how have they had such a successful season?
Defensive stability has been the best thing for Orlando thus far. At this point in the season, the Lions have given up 13 goals the same as Philadelphia, LAFC, and Colorado, with only Columbus and Seattle having better marks. OCSC has also given up multiple goals just twice out of the 13 games that the team has played. The Lions have a good scoring tally at first glance with 21 goals but that mark is slightly deceiving due to a 5-0 bombardment of San Jose. It’s the team’s defensive work that has enabled it to pick up points in close games, as only three of the 13 matches have been decided by more than one goal.
2. ) Daryl Dike, while he’s having a successful run with the USMNT at the Gold Cup, isn’t doing much for Orlando right now. How have Orlando looked without Dike up top, and how do you think they’ll approach Thursday’s game without him?
As I hinted at above, the goals haven’t been the most free-flowing for OCSC so far. At times Orlando has looked pretty good without him up top, but they 100% miss having someone of his caliber when he isn’t on the field. You’ll likely see Tesho Akindele starting up top on Thursday, although Oscar Pareja may decide to throw a wrench in proceedings and slot Benji Michel in up top. Part of the issue for the Lions is that Dike isn’t the only one missing, and the collective absences are beginning to pile up and affect the cohesiveness of the XI that are on the field.
3.) Where is Orlando’s weakness, and where is their strength? Is there a certain player (or players) that Philly fans should look out for?
Currently, the team’s biggest weakness is injuries. Alexandre Pato has been out since the first game of the season, Ruan has been sidelined since May, Antonio Carlos is out injured Sebas Mendez went off with an injury early in the team’s last game, and Joao Moutinho only just made his return from a stint on the sidelines in the team’s previous game. The latter four are no-brainer starters when healthy and Pato started the first game of the season with Daryl Dike on loan at Barnsley after scoring for fun during the Lions’ preseason games. The other weakness for Orlando at the moment is the team’s ability to create. Mauricio Pereyra has been phenomenal since joining Orlando but hasn’t quite hit the heights we’ve been accustomed to this year. Part of that may be due to the team’s general upheaval with all the injuries to starting players, but Orlando needs a bit more from him if it wants to stay near the top of the East.
4.) What is Orlando facing with injuries, international duties, etc. Who is expected to start, and what is your score prediction?
Dike is away on international duty, Carlos is listed as out in the injury report, and while Pato and Ruan are both listed as questionable I wouldn’t expect to see them. As far as I know, Mendez will not play either. Here’s the starting lineup as best as I can figure:
Pedro Gallese; Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, Kyle Smith; Junior Urso, Andres Perea; Nani, Mauricio Pereyra, Chris Mueller; Tesho Akindele.
I’ll go with a 1-0 win for Orlando at home.