It's game week! While it's true the Magic and Solar Bears have kept me sane all winter, it's March in Orlando and that means only one thing -- it's time to #FillTheBowlAgain. While we #NeverHuntAlone. Because #WeAreOne. Or because we are #LionNation. I don't know.
I'm about over the hash tags.
We'll be welcoming Real Salt Lake to Orlando for the 2016 opener this Sunday, looking to earn three points from the jump and get the season started the right way. What three things would help Inchy's boys do so?
Display Defensive Chemistry
The back line of Orlando City is often pointed at when looking for a weak part of the roster. While the fullbacks are respected as offensive threats with skill and creativity, the center pairings have occasionally left more to be desired. We also saw how effective a leader in net can be orchestrating the unit when Tally Hall replaced Donovan Ricketts following the early weeks of last season.
Aurélien Collin should be in his usual, aggressive form, but it will be important for new netminder Joe Bendik and whoever is paired with Collin to establish themselves early on.
Continue Domination of Possession
Adrian Heath's Lions were one of the league's most ball-dominant teams from the minute we kicked off at the Citrus Bowl. One of just two teams to garner a positive Possession Score from Squawka (152, trailing only Columbus' 391), working the ball around for openings proved to be the hallmark of Inchy's attack.
The midfield unit of Kaká, Darwin Cerén and Cristian Higuita made this an extremely effective tactic, though the attack did stutter in the midfield at times. The acquisition of Antonio Nocerino paired with the return of Kevin Molino brings a new dimension to this attack -- one capable of potent fireworks.
The Lions should come out to note that while, yes, they do have some shiny new toys (and a fully repaired one), the philosophy remains the same, growing only more dangerous with the newly acquired talent.
Improve Work Up the Flanks
Inchy's boys certainly enjoyed working up the flanks in his 4-2-3-1 formation, utilizing both speed in Rafael Ramos and Corey Ashe, along with skill in Luke Boden and Brek Shea to maximize interplay with the wide midfielders moving forward. We may see this same formation, allowing the Lions to benefit from the stability and familiarity with it -- however, it's possible the Lions come out in a 4-3-2-1 formation, pairing any three of Nocerino, Cerén, Higuita or Pedro Ribeiro in front of the defense to link with two attackers and the striker.
Should the 4-3-2-1 formation come to pass, it will be that much more important for the fullbacks to step up their play. Crossing was not a strength for Orlando City last season. Considering the talent and ability out wide, it needs to be moving forward.