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Oppo Research: 5 Things about Orlando City

Ben Miller of The Mane Land tells us about Orlando's inconsistencies, Luis Muriel's struggles, and why Facundo Torres is someone to watch Friday night.

Facundo Torres can ball | Courtesy

In this edition of Oppo Research, Hudson River Blue spoke with Ben Miller of The Mane Land to learn more about Orlando City SC, New York City FC's opponent on Friday night. Here is your NYCFC vs Orlando City preview.

Orlando City SC at a Glance

• League Form: W-D-L-L-D

• Record: 5W, 6D, 8L | 21 points, 10th place

• Scoring Leader: Duncan McGuire, 6 goals

• Assist Leader: Nicolás Lodeiro, 6 assists

1. Lineup changes, player struggles = disappointing season

Hudson River Blue: After a stellar 2023, many expected Orlando to reach even higher heights this season with the additions of Luis Muriel and Nicolás Lodeiro. But Orlando underperformed their expectations so far, to say the least. What led to the team’s inconsistency this season?

Ben Miller: I think its been a number of different things. The team competed on two fronts to begin the season with Concacaf Champions Cup, something that most teams don't handle well. Then there was a combination of injuries and call-ups that meant there was little consistency in the lineups and formations Oscar Pareja was using, and we very rarely saw the Lions' best XI. There was a period in May where player availability issues meant Orlando was forced into using a 3-5-2 that, while largely solid defensively, offered very little going forward.

On top of all that, the three Designated Players – Facundo Torres, Martin Ojeda, and Luis Muriel – largely haven't delivered the sort of performances needed for a team to be successful in this era of MLS. Finishing has been an issue across the board and the defense has been uncharacteristically sloppy. All that to's been hard to pinpoint one thing that's gone wrong this season, things across the board just haven't quite gelled. 

2. Luis Muriel not living up to the hype

HRB: Speaking of Luis Muriel, three goals in 13 games is not what anyone expected. Duncan McGuire and Facundo Torres lead the Orlando offense currently, just like last season. What’s holding Muriel back from reaching his full potential in MLS?

BM: I think Oscar Pareja has struggled to find and tweak a formation that brings out the best of both Muriel and Duncan McGuire, while also accommodating Facundo Torres. Torres is best when he can drift in centrally from the right wing and find pockets of space between the back line and midfield. Muriel isn't a traditional No 9, he's more of a deep-lying forward who likes to drop off and likewise find pockets of space where he can pick the ball up, bring his teammates into play, or drive at the defense with his dribbling ability.

The three of them are dangerous enough that you have to try to get them all on the field at the same time if you can, and Pareja has started using a standard 4-4-2 with Muriel as the left-sided striker and Torres as the right midfielder in order to give them more space to operate.

3. Orlando's defense must stay focused

HRB: Orlando has conceded a league-high six penalties this season, with only one saved by Pedro Gallese. How can Orlando be more precise and sharper with their defending to avoid this?

BM: They just need to do a better job at maintaining focus levels. This team has only lost one defender from last year, and Antonio Carlos missed a large part of the 2023 season through injury, so the defensive issues have been somewhat mystifying.

Part of it is down to Pedro Gallese being uncharacteristically error prone during the first couple months of the season, and part of it is down to the makeshift defenses Pareja was forced to use when injuries and international absences were at their height. Hopefully being able to consistently use the same four guys at the back will help clean things up a bit.

4. The X-Factor: Facundo Torres

HRB: What's the X-factor that could decide this game?

BM: Facundo Torres. Orlando goes as he goes, and its no coincidence that he's got three goals and one assist in the last two matches and the Lions took four of the six points available. He's typically had slow starts to the season and started to heat up right around this time of the summer. If he can do it again then it makes Orlando a lot more difficult to play against.

Facundo Torres's thunder strike against Chicago

5. Predicted score, Starting XI

HRB: Prediction time: Starting XI? Final score?

BM: I think we'll largely see the same lineup from the 4-2 win over Chicago. As for a score prediction, things never seem to go well for OCSC up in Yankee Stadium and I fear that this game won't be any different. 2-1 win for NYCFC.