It's a week four battle between teams with goal scoring woes, as Orlando City heads up north to take on the Montreal Impact. This match may end up being very important in the long run, as these are two teams that might be battling for one of the final playoff spots in the East come November.
City fans have begun to question the Lions' attacking prowess, as the two goals they have managed through three matches were more luck than skill. On the other hand, the Impact have failed to score a league goal yet this season, though they've only played two matches.
The Impact are coming off a woeful 2014, in which they finished at the very bottom of the MLS table. There's a little excitement around the team though, as they're the last
U.S. MLS side remaining in the CONCACAF Champions League tournament. They beat Costa Rican side Alajuelense in Montreal last week, and the return leg of the home/away draw is on April 7. If they can hold on to the aggregate lead, they'll be only the second MLS team to make the tourney final in the last 15 years.
Both teams will be missing starters due to the international matches going on this week, but Orlando will bear the brunt of that hardship, with at least four likely starters not with the team. Montreal will most notably be missing defender and regular starter Laurent Ciman. Orlando Coach Adrian Heath had this to say on the absences:
"We got a few injuries, we got a few guys away, which obviously is not ideal, but it is what it is. Let's concentrate on the things we can actually control. I've always said, one door closes another opens for somebody else. There will be opportunities for a number of our players this weekend who probably have been a bit frustrated at not playing." - Coach Heath
The match this weekend will be played in the Olympic Stadium rather than the Impact's Saputo stadium, as the former (a dome) is better equipped for the below freezing temperatures that are forecast for the weekend.
Formation and Starting XI:
Orlando City SC: "Decimated" may not be a strong enough word to describe Orlando City's lineup this weekend. Depending on how serious the injuries to Carlos Rivas and Tony Cascio are, the Lions may actually only have 13 total field players available on Saturday. To round out the other injuries, Martin Paterson (groin - out), Lewis Neal (neck - doubtful), and Cristian Higuita (groin - doubtful) are all likely to miss the match.
It will really be tough to say exactly what Orlando's lineup will look like prior to kickoff. My guess would be that Heath probably isn't even sure yet. Above, we see his standard 4-2-3-1, but a 4-3-3 or a flat 4-4-2 are just as probable. This will be a huge challenge for the coaching staff, coming off a very tough defeat against Vancouver.
On the bright side, this may be the best chance for guys like Harrison Heath, Danny Mwanga, Luke Boden, and potentially Tyler Turner to prove their worth. It's tough to get too tactical when we have so little sense of what the lineup will be. One thing we can say is that Boden and Hines are far less likely to get forward from their fullback spots as Brek Shea and Rafael Ramos. It remains to be seen if Kaká will have the same chemistry with anyone else that he's developed with Kevin Molino. If nothing else though, this will certainly make for interesting watching for serious Orlando fans.
Montreal Impact: The Impact were very bad last season, but you can't say they've sat on their hands and done nothing about it. They added young American talent in Dilly Duka and Jack McInerney mid-season last year, and they brought in English veteran Nigel Reo-Coker to shore up the midfield this off-season.
The Impact are solid through the back, though they'll definitely miss Ciman on the backline. Reo-Coker is obviously a player with a lot of talent, though he's been prone to occasionally looking disinterested during his time in MLS. I would imagine he'll be up to the challenge looking at Kaká across from him though.
The Argentine DP Ignacio Piatti is an excellent dribbler, and he's surrounded by a bevy of young, attacking talent. All three of the other attackers are right on the fringe of the USMNT picture, so there's certainly some skill there. It should be an interesting challenge for Orlando's makeshift back line.
What to Watch For:
New Lion Sighting! - Rather than one specific match-up this week, Orlando fans should be paying attention to the players making their first appearances for the Lions. Luke Boden is a certain starter at left back, in what will be his first appearance in Major League Soccer. We may see Danny Mwanga for the first time in purple as well, and youngsters Harrison Heath and Tyler Turner may also make an appearance.
Can these guys cut it at this level? One match is hardly a fair test, but such is the nature of the league.
Orlando Set Pieces - If Seb Hines makes the start at right back alongside Collin and St. Ledger in the center, that will give Orlando three serious aerial threats in the lineup. Pedro Ribeiro is tall as well, and Amobi Okugo has also shown a willingness to get forward on corners. Further, will the Lions alter their game plan to get more crosses into the box?
This doesn't seem destined to be a high scoring affair, but don't be surprised if Orlando City grabs a goal from a header.
In a match between two teams depleted by injuries and international call-ups, it's safe to say that this isn't likely to be a pretty affair. Orlando has shown a fair bit of resiliency in the past though, and this lineup will be full of guys who are anxious to earn more playing time going forward. Also, if Heath's press conference after the Vancouver match was any indication, this will have been a very intense week of practice for Orlando City.
I'm tempted to say this one will finish 0-0, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say Orlando does manage to knock in a goal off a set piece to redeem their home loss last week.
Final Result: 1-0 Orlando City
What are your thoughts headed into Orlando's fourth match? Let us know in the comment section. Be sure to join in on our Match Day Open Thread 90 minutes (or so) prior to kickoff!
The match is scheduled for Saturday, March 28, at 4:00 p.m. It will be televised locally on Fox Sports Florida.