Each week we do a Q&A with our friends around the SB Nation Soccer world to get some insight on their team from those who know them best. Know your enemy.
MLS's two youngest clubs meet for the third and final time during Rivalry Week (wait what?) this Sunday at 7:00 PM as New York City FC faces off against Orlando City. New York is coming off an impressive 1-0 home victory against the LA Galaxy and is hoping to keep the good times going at the Citrus Bowl.
Orlando is in a transitional state after parting ways with head coach Adrian Heath and bringing on former NYC FC coach Jason Kreis. The team remains in contention for a Playoff spot, only a point back of D.C. United despite losing to Toronto FC midweek.
Managing Editor Michael Citro answers our Orlando City questions this week, commenting on life with Kreis, defending Villa, and Kevin Molino's breakout 2016.
Q. It's been more than a month since Orlando City made the transition at head coach to our old pal Jason Kreis. While the results haven't been there yet (1-3-2, 6 points from 6 games), it's probably still too soon to look at points earned as a means for evaluation. Results aside, I'm wondering what your first impressions of Kreis have been? Has he made sweeping tactical or personnel changes, or is he slowly transitioning OCSC towards something different?
M. My early impressions of Jason Kreis are that he is a cerebral, analytical coach. He’s made only minor changes so far. Some of that is likely due to not trying to reinvent the wheel for the players in the middle of a playoff chase and it’s partly due to the personnel the previous staff left behind. Still, you see little changes here and there that have made a difference. I would expect a continuation of minor changes throughout the rest of this season and he’ll continue to evaluate guys to see if they will fit what he wants to do.
Q. In reading your round table, I thought it interesting that everyone believes that getting a result in this match will come down to defending NYC FC's attack. However, looking back, you've had success in the past with limiting New York's scoring opportunities and that has tipped our "rivalry" in your favor. If it's true the defense is key, who is the Orlando City player that is most crucial to stopping NYC FC's attack? What other factors, whether it be home form, returning players, tactical adjustments, etc. do you expect to play an important role in the battle between NYC's attack and Orlando's defense?
M. The most crucial player will be whoever is tasked with stopping David Villa. That’s been Tommy Redding earlier in the year and the young Homegrown Player has done a decent job. He may get the nod again. He’s the most athletic and fastest of Orlando’s center backs. But I think more important than the defender most responsible for Villa is simply good, solid, team defense by the back four and the defensive midfielders.
I think home field may help Orlando City, as teams typically take 15-20 minutes to figure out how to weigh their passes on the turf and get used to the surface in general as well as the conditions. The air in Orlando isn’t just hot and humid, but it’s also often heavy and stagnant in the summer months. That takes a bit of getting used to. The Lions have lost just twice at home this season, although they were the last two. Kevin Molino getting an extra game under his belt since a hamstring injury will help round him into form.
Q. Kevin Molino has had his MLS coming out party one year later than expected, but it couldn't have come at a better time as some of last year's big performers have not shown up in the same way. His nine goals and seven assists put him second in both categories in the team, and when he's absent from the squad, Orlando's offense can look stagnant. What has been the major difference for Molino this year compared with last? What do you get from Molino when he's on the pitch? Do you expect him to play a role in the game this weekend?
M. The major difference with Molino is that he’s on the field this year. Last year’s knee injury in the early part of the season kept him out all season. He never fully got an opportunity to learn how to play in MLS until this year. We’ve seen him play this way in our USL days and we always suspected his skills would translate to MLS, but he had to build his confidence on the field and he has been able to do that.
When Kevin is on the pitch, he gives Kaká a midfield partner to play off of. The two seem to always know where the other one is or where they will be and both like to play the quick, short passes that lead to scoring opportunities. Molino is coming off a hamstring injury. He was back in the lineup Wednesday but he didn’t play the full 90. I would suspect he’ll play a role on Sunday.
Starting XI and Prediction?
M. This has been the hardest thing to figure out since Kreis took over. He’s not been afraid to try new things. At Colorado last weekend he gave defenders Mikey Ambrose and Jose Aja their first MLS starts. Wednesday he gave midfielder Tony Rocha his first MLS start. He also said after the Toronto match that he would likely make a similar number of changes for Sunday as he did from last Saturday night to Wednesday (five).
I’m just guessing here, but I think we’ll see something like this:
Joe Bendik; Mikey Ambrose, David Mateos, Tommy Redding, Kevin Alston; Antonio Nocerino, Servando Carrasco; Kevin Molino, Kaká, Brek Shea; Cyle Larin.
My prediction is yet another draw. I think it will end up 2-2.
Thanks again to Michael for answering our questions. Have your own prediction for the match? Let us hear it in the comments section!