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HRB Preview: New York City FC vs Orlando City

City looks to keep their tournament hopes alive against a pesky Orlando City side

New York City FC v Orlando City SC - 2019 MLS Photo by Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images

Frustrating is the best way to describe New York City FC’s performance against the Philadelphia Union last week. City had the majority of possession and dominated for long stretches of the game but lacked any conviction. There was a collective failure to create high-quality scoring chances and the few chances City created were met with a quality display from the Union’s Jamaican shot-stopper Andre Blake. One defensive lapse put the Union in front and that’s all they needed.

Was City’s failure a result of Ronny Delia’s system? Was it a result of not playing for four months? Was is a result of a 9 AM kickoff? Those are questions that we don’t have an answer to. The fact of the matter is City have played three MLS opponents since the start of 2020. In those games, City has lost all of them by a score of 1-0. Along with that, City hasn’t scored a goal since the second leg of their CONCACAF Champions League tie vs AD San Carlos.

That’s all not ideal and as City look to keep their MLS Is Back Tournament hopes alive, Orlando City stands in the way. Orlando sits atop Group A along with the Union following their 2-1 victory over in-state “rivals” Inter Miami in what people are calling the Florida Derby (I personally like the name “COVID Classico”).

I was able to watch some of the game and similar to most games this tournament, it was sloppy and sluggish for long stretches. Juan Agudelo opened the scoring for Miami two minutes into the second half and after that, it was all Orlando. Nani was Orlando’s centerpiece and once he got into the game, there was very little chance Miami had of stopping him. Nani assisted Chris Mueller’s 70th-minute goal and buried the game-winner in extra time to secure the win.

It’s hard to take away anything from these games. Orlando looked disinterested until Nani started to get involved. Despite his age, he still has ability that is superior to most of his peers in MLS. It takes one opportunity for him to change the game. Outside of him, Orlando doesn’t create much else. Mueller has proven to be a solid contributor during his time in MLS, but Dom Dwyer remains invisible. He’s a proven physical factor when he’s on the field, but his goal-scoring ability still seems to be stuck in Kansas City.

Orlando came in 11th place out of 12 teams in the Eastern Conference last season. They started this season with a 0-0 draw vs Real Salt Lake and a 2-1 loss away to the Colorado Rapids. The core pieces of this Orlando team are basically the same as last year. The only difference is the head coach Oscar Pareja. Pareja has proven to be a good coach in MLS but the thing about this Orlando project is that it was never going to happen overnight. Orlando’s win against Miami was a good morale-boosting victory, but I don’t think it was any indication of what this squad actually is.

With all that being said, I currently have no faith in City’s ability to win this game. How could I? Ever since Delia has taken over, this team has been lackluster in every aspect on the field. His seat isn’t hot and given the circumstances, I think that’s the right decision. With that being said, you can’t tell me that anything from this team has been encouraging.

If there’s any team to bounce back against at this moment, it’s Orlando. City has played the Columbus Crew, Toronto FC, and the Union so far this season. Every single one of those teams were preseason favorites to sit towards the top of the Eastern Conference. City hasn’t been dominated in any of those games either, they were all just 1-0 losses. I think the anger doesn’t come from this group being too far off, but being so damn close to breaking through. If City can score a goal, confidence will be up throughout the team and the flood gates should open up.

Orlando’s Predicted Lineup

It’s hard to predict how many changes will come during this tournament right now. My knowledge of Orlando City isn’t top notch, but I figured their lineup would stay the same outside of two changes. Tesho Akindele would get the nod over Dom Dwyer in an attempt to try and find goals from elsewhere. Dwyer could be a valuable asset later in the match to run at tired legs and get physical. I also threw in Jhengson Mendez over Junior Urso. Mendez proved to be a good player for Orlando last year and I figured he’d be a better fit for this game over an aging Urso. I also wouldn’t be shocked to see a player like Nani not start and be a 2nd half sub to keep him fit. Again, this is just a guess but this is how I think it’s going to play out.

NYCFC’s Predicted Lineup

MEDINA IN THE MIDFIELD!?!?!? I’m sorry ladies and gentlemen, but hear me out. Maxi Moralez is out injured and Medina came into the last game as a sub, with Delia placing him in the middle of the field. I don’t like it either, trust me, but considering Delia and the club’s infatuation with Medina, I wouldn’t be surprised if his name is on the team sheet. I’d much rather see Parks move up there and bring Sands into the midfield or give Gedion Zelalem a runout, but prepare to be disappointed.

Outside of that major change, Mitriță should get a run out on the left considering we didn’t see him in the last game. Valentín Castellanos should get in this game later on either on the left or up top at striker. I also think it would be a good time to see what we have with Gudmundur Thórarinsson at left-back. Ronald Matarrita has been suspect at times and maybe Gudi can prove to be something on the left. Outside of that, the lineup remains unchanged.

As for what I think will happen in this game, City will score because they need too. I can’t imagine the outrage that will come if City put up another doughnut on the board. City has looked fine defensively, despite not putting up a clean sheet this season. If they can contain Nani whenever he’s in the game, I think Orlando will have a rough time trying to score. I’ll put my money on Heber to finally score and City to eke out a 1-0 victory in this one.

Kickoff from Disney World is set for 8 PM ET tomorrow night, Tuesday, July 14. The game should be broadcasting on Univison if nothing changes with TV scheduling. Strap in because it’s going to be a doozy.