After two solid performances on the pitch against D.C. United that resulted in disappointing losses for Orlando City, the Lions come into tomorrow's match trying to salvage three points from the season series. Orlando City heads into the match riding a four-match unbeaten streak and is sitting in fourth place in the Eastern Conference table. Meanwhile, the guys in black and red enter the match coming off their first home loss in 16 matches. United still sit atop the Eastern table. Here is a look at some of the key players who may decide which team comes out on top on Sunday.
Orlando City SC
Pedro Ribeiro - Ribeiro said Friday at training that he is back to 100 percent after tearing his hamstring in April against United. Ribeiro, who turns 25 today, had given OCSC fans reason to be excited after strong performances early in the season, including a goal against the Montreal Impact in the game before the injury. With rookie and MLS No. 1 SuperDraft pick Cyle Larin off on international duty, Ribeiro will play an important role up top, whether it be in a starting role or coming off the bench. Larin had been in strong form, scoring four goals in the last six games. Ribeiro has looked solid for the most part since returning to the lineup, but the pressure on him will magnify as he is relied on to be the main goal scorer.
Amobi Okugo - Coming off a benching following his yellow card suspension, Okugo is likely to return to the lineup against D.C. United with Darwin Ceren off on international duty with El Salvador. This game could be the midfielder's opportunity to earn his spot back again and stay there as the Lions strive for a playoff spot. A poor performance, and the 24-year-old might not be able to recover and get back on the pitch.
Sean St. Ledger - Pressure will be on the Irish defender and his center back mate Aurelien Collin to thwart the dangerous attack of D.C. United, led by Fabian Espindola. Collin has been strong, but St. Ledger has struggled at times. Against Chicago, St. Ledger had a tendency to drift out of position and that kind of play will get the Lions burned by Espindola and co.
Jairo Arrieta - With Espindola (righfully) likely garnering a lot of the defensive attention from OCSC, Arrieta will probably have a few chances to roam free on the D.C. United attack. Since being traded by Orlando before the start of the season, Arrieta has been strong for the Black and Red, filling in for a team that has had some tough injuries to overcome. In the most recent game against his former team, Arrieta was credited with an assist, but in the previous outing, the 31-year-old scored twice against Chicago.
Perry Kitchen - Fresh off being selected to the provisional roster for the U.S. Gold Cup squad, Kitchen will have to continue being the stabilizing presence in the United midfield. Kitchen, 23, has played with a hodgepodge of midfielders in recent games, as D.C. has bounced between Markus Halsti and Davy Arnaud as the other center midfielder, dealt with a suspended Chris Rolfe for one match, and just recently got Nick DeLeon back from injury.
Steve Birnbaum - The natural center back has filled in at left back with Taylor Kemp out with an injury, but could find himself back in the middle against OCSC, assuming Kemp makes his return to the XI. If not, Kofi Opare is expected to stay in the center back role and would leave Birnbaum out wide. Birnbaum is much better as a central defender than he is at pushing forward, and if Kemp returns it could add another layer to an already dangerous D.C. attack.
What players will you be looking out for on Sunday? Drop a comment below and let us know.