It's an MLS bye week for Orlando City (2-4-2), but the Lions will still be in action this weekend, as Brazilian side Ponte Preta will be in town for a friendly match on Saturday.
Recently promoted to Série A, Ponte Preta aren't necessarily one of the biggest-name sides in Brazilian football. However, they are (arguably) the oldest team still in activity in the country, and they were famously the first side in Brazil to allow black players. For a little more history on the club, you can get some great info on Orlando City's website here.
This will be an abbreviated preview, seeing as the match is a friendly. However, it's still a very important game for Orlando. Guys like Brek Shea, Kaká, and Aurelien Collin will get a rest this week, which means fans will get to see much more of the younger players on the roster.
For guys like Bryan Rochez and Carlos Rivas, it will be a chance to make a push for a shot at the MLS starting XI. For fringe players like Estrela, Harrison Heath, and center backs Tommy Redding and Conor Donovan, it will be an opportunity to show Coach Heath that they are ready to be included in the 18 each week.
It's not entirely clear who will start the friendly, though we know Kaká and Collin are away from the team. It seems likely that Brek Shea will get a rest too, and in general I'd expect to see a number of reserves get a significant amount of time. Here's a rough look at what we might see on Saturday.
Formation and Starting XI:
For our most astute readers, you may notice that this looks nothing like the starting XI we've seen most weeks in MLS. It's definitely not going to be our A-side, but it will also be a great opportunity for fans to judge who's ready to step up to the big time.
I would really like Rivas and Rochez to have a true chance to start in this match. And of course, I'm excited to see how some of the original USL guys fare against this competition. Can Turner and Heath hold their own? Will Boden be able to fill the role of veteran leader and keep things under control? These are important questions, and my guess would be that Coach Heath will be just as interested in the answers as we are.
We'll skip the predictions and "What to Watch For" for this one, as it would be a bit silly with two teams squaring off in a friendly with B-sides. Still, there's a lot to watch for as an Orlando City fan if you're able to make it down to the Citrus Bowl for this one.
- Here's our favorite Orlando City comms guy Jhamie Chin taking a look back at the previous seven international friendlies the Lions have played in, complete with video highlights!
- Our own Kevin Mercer isn't all that impressed by Ponte Preta. When does Real Madrid show up?!
- Coach Heath talked a bit about the friendly in his weekly Coach's Show this week. Here's the recap.
That's all we've got for you this week. Orlando may not quite draw 30,000 fans again, but considering all 14,000 season ticket holders have a seat already, there should be a solid crowd. We'll be there covering the match as always, and we'll have your recap and reactions posted after the final whistle.