MLS is back, and the Boys in Blue open up the season on the road against expansion foes Orlando City SC. Here’s everything you need to know about the Lions ahead of Sunday’s match.
Last Time We Played
We’ve got to go back to August 28th, Matchday 27, when NYC FC made their final visit to the Citrus Bowl. Orlando City took all three points that day, beating NYC FC 2-1. Kaka started off the scoring by sliding a ball through Saunders’ legs in the 32 minute. Stiven Mendoza leveled the affair after 55 minutes, but Kaka drew and converted a penalty after 61 minutes, giving Orlando the win.
What’s Happened Since
Quite a bit. NYC FC went on to finish second in the Conference, closing the season by taking four wins from their last seven matches. Orlando closed the season taking 10 points from their last 8 games, finishing 8th in the East and only a point off of a Playoff spot. Injuries plagued Orlando all season, with key contributors Kaka, Kevin Molino, Matias Perez Garcia, and Christian Higuita all unable to play more than 23 games.
In the offseason, Orlando turned over significant contributors as old buddy Jason Kreis looked to reshape the roster to his style. The team lost Molino, who produced 11 goals and 8 assists in 2016, in the Expansion Draft to Minnesota United. They also let defender Luke Boden (19 starts) and Julio Baptista (23 appearances) walk on contract expiry.
Looking to address their lack of depth and their defensive struggles, Kreis brought in CB Jonathan Spector from Birmingham City, FB Danny Toia from Montreal, and DMF Will Johnson from Toronto. All three of Orlando’s key additions over the offseason may see the field Sunday against NYC FC as the home team christens its brand new Orlando City Stadium.
How They Play
New York fans will be very familiar with Orlando’s style of play given they’re coached by ex-NYC FC coach Jason Kreis. Kreis is known for his attack-minded style and possession-based soccer, seeking to control the tempo of the play and generate many scoring chances.
Kreis prefers midfield controllers over ball-stoppers, sometimes at the expense of his back line. His teams play out the back, sometimes to a fault (hello Red Bulls, hello darkness), but they will almost always control possession, especially at home. His teams typically dominate in shots taken, but at times the shot quality can be lacking and true goals-scoring opportunities aren’t created. Kreis is a known tinkerer, so expect changes to tactics and the formation depending on how things are going.
Here’s how we expect Orlando will line up, courtesy of our friends at the Mane Land:
Player to Watch
It’s hard to not talk about Brazilian legend Kaka when it comes to Orlando, but the player to watch this Sunday will be Cyle Larin. Larin has become a bonafide goalscorer since Orlando’s inception, netting 31 goals in league play at a rate of better than a goal every two games. He can score in many ways, whether it be from distance, running in behind the defense, or finishing aerial opportunities.
CBs Maxime Chanot and Frederic Brillant will have their hands full Sunday tracking both Larin and Rivas. Communication will be key as the pairing at the back will need to account for Larin everywhere he goes.
Orlando City Fun Facts
Here’s some stuff about Orlando City and Orlando you probably didn’t know:
- Orlando City and NYC FC are expansion twins from the 2015 season.
- The team’s all-time leading score is Cyle Larin with 32 goals, followed by Kaka with 19
- Their mascot is Kingston the Lion
- They are directly to blame for ‘Pandora - The World of Avatar,’ a new Disney park that no one wants or cares about
Predictions from HRB
Orlando comes out fired up for their first home game in Orlando City Stadium, scoring first before half. The teams trade goals after half and NYC claws back to score before full time, saving a point in the process - The game finishes 2-2.
Here are predictions from our staff:
3-1 NYC FC - Calvin Daniel
2-0 NYC FC - Christian Smith
2-0 NYC FC, Kreis’ tinkering gets the best of him - Jonathan Liebling
3-2 NYC FC - Sam Dunn
3-1 NYC FC - Charles Dunst
2-1 NYC FC, Orlando scores one through Kaka, who reveals a Bible verse under his shirt. Their defense is shaky though, and when NYC FC ties it, Kreis tinkers with the formation allowing NYC FC to grab the game winner. Also, Johansen will save a goal with his butt - Raf Noboa y Rivera
There you have it. MLS never disappoints so expect a wild and probably wacky game. Have your own take on it? Let us hear it in the comments section!