1. Orlando just picked up a massive win with a USOC final victory over Sacramento Republic. Do you think there will be some hangover against the Union?
I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there’s a fat hangover this weekend. I was in the stadium for that game and the atmosphere was frankly so bonkers that I’d be shocked if there isn’t some sort of emotional and mental drop-off. The trophy meant so much to the team and the organization and it’s been the main focus since making the final, even if the public insistence was that things were being taken one game at a time. Combine that with the fact that the Union are looking...imperious at the moment, and I think the stage is set for a shaky Orlando performance.
2. In MLS, Orlando is holding steady just above the playoff line, but just below the home-field advantage line. How would you characterize the season this far?
It’s truly been a weird one. The team is in the midst of a five game winning streak across all competitions, and has looked more determined and gritty in finding ways to gut out results from tough situations. There’s still a sense that we haven’t seen the best of this team yet, but that things are improving from a summer that was filled with difficult and frustrating results.
3. Of the teams above the playoff line across the league, OCSC has the worst GD (-5). Is this because the offense won’t produce, or the defense is weak?
It’s absolutely down to the offense. Orlando has scored more that two goals just twice this season, once in a 5-3 loss to D.C. United and then in the recent 3-2 win over the Seattle Sounders. For much of the season the Lions suffered from not having a true threat on the wing opposite of Facundo Torres, which allowed teams to focus all of their attention on Facu and Mauricio Pererya. The recent emergence of acquisitions like Ivan Angulo and Nicholas Gioacchini has helped a lot in that area, and Orlando’s offense has begun to look better lately. If things can get going on offense then this team’s chances of snagging a home playoff game improve immensely.
4. Will there be any injuries to note? What are your lineup and score predictions?
Joey DeZart, Alexandre Pato and Jack Lynn are all out. Robin Jansson is questionable, as he’s returning from a right leg injury. He was on the bench Wednesday but didn’t see any action.
This could well be a very interesting lineup coming off Wednesday’s game and a midweek clash with Atlanta shortly around the corner, so here’s my best crack at it.
Pedro Gallese; Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, Kyle Smith; Andres Perea, Cesar Araujo, Ivan Angulo, Mauricio Pereyra, Benji Michel; Ercan Kara
Prediction: Can’t say I like the look of this one for the boys in purple, 3-1 to the Union.