After some dicey officiating in last Sunday's draw with New England, a trip to New York City (or at least across the river) might be just what the Lions need. The club has won its last two matches in the Big Apple, including March's 1-0 victory over NYCFC at Yankee Stadium and a 5-2 demolition of the Red Bulls in Harrison, NJ, last season.
You might remember that game for Cyle Larin's hat trick and an appearance by vintage Kaká.
Starting XI and Lineup Projections:
Orlando's biggest absence this weekend will be the loss of Antonio Nocerino, as the Italian was hit with a one-game suspension for entering the field of play late in Sunday's 2-2 draw with New England. Even with Nocerino out, look for the Lions to stick with the two-man defensive midfield they utilized against the Revs.
Cristian Higuita has been rehabbing a groin injury but should be available for selection on Sunday. Even if he's not ready to play a full 90 minutes, Servando Carrasco is more than capable of filling in alongside Darwin Cerén and providing the Lions with capable defensive cover. We'll put Carrasco there for now, although Higuita could start if Adrian Heath feels he's good to go. Rafael Ramos is also a question mark for Sunday, so Kevin Alston could be in line for another starting appearance.
New York Red Bulls:
New York is desperately trying to turn its season around following a rough start, so there's no telling what kind of creativity we might see from Red Bulls manager Jesse Marsch.
While he got the start last week against Colorado, Chris Duvall is one young player who might not have his starting spot locked down. New York could turn to Connor Lade or Sal Zizzo at right back if Marsch isn't quite sold on the 24-year-old Duvall just yet.
Even a star player like Bradley Wright-Phillips has to watch his back, as 19-year-old Cameroonian striker Anatole Abang could push BWP for minutes if the Red Bulls continue to struggle. Abang already has two senior team caps with Cameroon and scored for New York Red Bulls II in USL play this season.
Player(s) to Watch:
Despite its struggles on the field in 2016, New York has plenty of guys who were instrumental in the club's Supporters' Shield campaign from a year ago.
The aforementioned Bradley Wright-Phillips is past the breakout stage of his MLS career, but he's still one of the most formidable strikers in the game when he's in form. If the Red Bulls are going to turn things around this season, it's tough to imagine them doing it without BWP.
Sacha Kljestan and Winter Park native Dax McCarty will almost certainly cause problems in the midfield against Orlando, as both players bring veteran experience to New York's starting XI. While Kljestan has fallen off the USMNT radar under Jurgen Klinsmann, he's still one to watch out for as an offensive creator.
But the Red Bull of the moment might Luis Robles, who's currently writing one of the more compelling comeback stories in American soccer. Though he was playing in the German third division less than four years ago, Robles has become one of the best keepers in MLS and was the league's Goalkeeper of the Year last season.
Prediction: Orlando City 3, New York Red Bulls 1
I came within seconds of nailing my prediction last week (thanks PRO!), so I'm confident heading into this one. New York has struggled this season because the Red Bulls can't score, which should be the case on Sunday if Joe Bendik can continue his strong start to the 2016 season.
Factor in Cyle Larin nearing full strength and an increasingly deep Orlando City attack, and I think the Lions can light up New York on the road.