I caught up with Ben Miller of The Mane Land to ask some questions about Orlando City ahead of today’s match against the Philadelphia Union at 4 p.m. at Subaru Park. You can my answers to Ben’s questions at The Mane Land.
1.) By some quick math, City has earned 13 points over the last 11 games. What’s been keeping Orlando from better form and making a good positional push?
For one thing, the defensive solidity hasn’t been there, especially during the last two games. But honestly, things just look...off. Injuries haven’t helped matters as Orlando is yet to deploy a fully first-choice XI this season, and for a while, the team was still finding ways to get results regardless. However, you need to have time together on the field to gel and build chemistry and the lineups have just been so varied due to injuries and call-ups that that’s been difficult to do. Plus, plenty of teams lower in the standings are now beginning to round into form, while Orlando’s form seems to be dipping at just about the worst possible time.
2.) In the last two games, Orlando has conceded seven goals. Is this a sign of a larger defensive failure, or is this just an unfortunate coincidence for Orlando?
I think it's a bit of both. Like I said earlier, Orlando has just looked completely off in the last two games. Whether it's misplacing easy passes in its own half, failing to close down opponents who are in good positions, or losing markers, the Lions have done a bit of everything. It’s a trend that I would expect to correct itself, given what we’ve seen out of this team for most of the time its been coached by Oscar Pareja, but it needs to happen quickly.
3.) Orlando’s in an interesting position, sitting just three points behind second place in the East (arguably the best seed when you factor in the difficulties of the first-place bye), but also just six points away from falling behind the line. What’s the mood in Orlando right now as to their chances?
There’s definitely a bit of worry beginning to set in. The team’s form in its last two games is bad enough but the Lions also don’t exactly have a run of easy games coming up either. Three road matches in a row against Philadelphia, New England, and Nashville are about as tough as run as you can have at the moment, The feeling and the expectation is that this team should be in the playoffs at the end of the season but it needs to get its best XI on the field soon and get those players some time together. The next three games are hugely important and the Lions need to get some sort of points from them to continue to keep pace near the top of the East. If these go poorly then people are going to be seriously concerned
4.) What are your score/lineup predictions?
Nani and Andres Perea are suspended for red cards they picked up during Wednesday’s loss to Montreal. Chris Mueller and Silvester van der Water both went off injured in that game so it's not clear if they’ll be available. Alexandre Pato and Mason Stajduhar are recovering from surgery and Sebas Mendez is recovering from an injury to his lower leg. Joao Moutinho didn’t make the squad on Wednesday night but was not listed on the injury report so it’s unclear whether or not he’ll be available.
Projected lineup: Pedro Gallese; Ruan, Antonio Carlos, Robin Jansson, Emmanuel Mas; Junior Urso, Joey DeZart, Mauricio Pereyra; Benji Michel, Daryl Dike, Alexander Alvarado
Score prediction: 2-1 to the Union. I just don’t see Orlando City getting it done in this one, but man I hope I’m wrong.