Orlando City is looking to win its second straight game and it's been a pretty long time since we could say that. In order to win consecutive games for just the second time in 2016, the Lions will have to do it on short rest. Coming off Saturday's win over Montreal, Orlando will host Philadelphia tomorrow night at Camping World Stadium.
Taking their seat at the big, purple table for this midweek match are Meg VanDyk, Austin David, and Brad Newton. They'll weigh in on Orlando City's 2-1 win over the Montreal Impact, the upcoming home rematch against the Philadelphia Union, and the Orlando Pride's weekend win ahead of this week's match at Kansas City.
Orlando got back in the win column Saturday night against Montreal but things didn't start too well for the Lions. What was the big difference between the first and second half for Orlando City?
Meg: Taking out Seb Hines and Rafael Ramos allowed Tommy Redding and Kevin Alston to be substituted in and both of them played exceptionally better. The second half also saw the team stringing together more passes than in the first. This allowed them to be more effective offensively and push the ball forward, rather than turning it over to Montreal.
Austin: The entire game changed for Orlando between the first 45 and second 45 minutes. Inchy said in his press conference that he wanted the guys to be more aggressive, to want to win and his players responded. Kaká being all over the place in the second half also helped quite a bit.
Brad: Hi, my name is Brad Newton and for the last two weeks I've written about both Cyle Larin and Kaká and what happens when the two of them link together to score -- and the result that has on Orlando City Soccer Club. Their combination play led to two goals. Orlando City won. I don't think that's a coincidence.
Rafael Ramos wasn't playing well prior to being subbed off with a hamstring injury. What were your thoughts on the performance of Kevin Alston in his place?
Austin: As I wrote in my five takeaways on Sunday, "Ramos' short 34 minutes on the pitch [Saturday] didn't really help his cause in terms of securing the starting job. With Alston in, the team looked a bit more solid defensively and, while it wasn't a great 56 minutes from the fullback (although Heath called his performance "smashing"), I think with some time training with the starters, he should look better."
Brad: We asked for it, we got it. Kevin Alston played and it was ... pretty okay-ish. It could just be rust from not having played many game-time minutes since joining the club, but if Ramos isn't fit to go Wednesday, Alston should be plenty.
Meg: I thought Kevin Alston did well, considering he hasn't seen much playing time with Orlando. During the second half, I was sitting right behind where he was playing and was impressed with his work ethic more than his technical skill. If he missed a ball, he played even harder and sometimes that is more important than overall talent.
The Lions now square off against Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia. Orlando City dropped a heartbreaker in Philly on the infamous offside free kick goal. How do you expect Orlando to attack the Union the second time around?
Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. Philadelphia Union
Our friends from Brotherly Game stop by to offer up some information on Wednesday's opponents, the Philadelphia Union. Let's find out more about a team the Eastern Conference leaders. Can the Lions finally beat them?
Brad: Orlando City had to also play without Cyle Larin and Cristian Higuita in that match and only lost because PRO had recently broken up with their significant other and was going through some things, playing Radiohead's "Exit Music (For a Film)" on repeat (that's the only explanation I can come up with for why their calls were so bad during that four-week stretch). Let's look at Philadelphia objectively here; if we're talking about quality of wins, their best two are over the Revs and NYCFC. I'm not convinced, and in the East that's probably for the best. I see more or less the strategy that was used against Montreal and things turned out pretty good there.
Meg: I fully expect to see Orlando come out hungry and hard, much like we saw them play in the second half against Montreal. They deserved to win against Philadelphia last time around and I expect to see them play with a little bit of a chip on their shoulders. This team has something to prove and, while yes they won this week, there is still a lot of season left and in order to get back in the swing of things they must win.
Austin: Philly has been one of the better clubs in the East to this point. Their home record (4-0-2) is one of the best in the conference, but their away record (1-3-1) leaves a bit of hope for the Lions. Since it is a shorter week for Orlando, and Philly played on Friday, Orlando needs to come out of the gate with the same energy it had in the second half of the Montreal game. If they attack their back line early and often, Orlando could get an early lead and defend through the second half.
What is your key match-up for tomorrow night's game and your predicted final score? How will this one play out?
Meg: This game will come down to how effectively Orlando passes the ball. If they can keep the ball moving out of the back, then they have a shot at winning. I'd also like to see some more shots; the team didn't take many last game and you miss 100% of the shots you don't take. I expect a 2-1 game, with Orlando coming out on top.
Austin: I would look at two of the best in-form keepers in the conference: Joe Bendik for Orlando and Andre Blake for Philly. Both keepers have stolen points for their teams with their shot-stopping ability and Wednesday's match-up should be no different. Whichever team's back line can help their goalkeeper the most will come away with points. 1-0 Orlando.
Brad: C.J. Sapong vs. Orlando City's back line. Final Score: 2-1, Kaká pulls a Fastball Special and throws Kevin Molino into the path of a ball, deflecting off the crown of Molino's head and in for the winner.
An outstanding goal from Kristen Edmonds gave the Pride their first road win of the season. What were your overall impressions of Orlando's trip to Houston and its 1-0 win over the Dash?
Austin: It wasn't the best of performances from the Pride, but it was one of those efforts that can define a season. Pulling out those kinds of results, and on the road at that, will be big down the stretch, especially come the Olympics.
Brad: At this point I'm just gonna call Houston "Orlando Jr." Between OCSC and the Pride, Orlando is 3-0 against Houston. The Pride are really good and, if I can stay on brand here for a second, #DefyingExpectations in every sense of the expression.
Meg: I thought both teams played extremely well. What impressed me the most was Orlando's defense, because for the first half of the season they haven't seemed to quite gel. I think they finally found some cohesiveness which allowed them to be more commanding and limit the shots taken by the Dash. This was a huge win for Orlando and helped establish them as real contenders in this league.
How can the Pride keep this three-game winning streak going against FC Kansas City without Alex Morgan and Ashlyn Harris?
Brad: Honestly? I'm not so concerned about the lack of Morgan as much as I am the lack of Harris. Yes, I understand teams are focusing on Morgan and that creates space for the other players, but Morgan isn't making saves on defense.
Meg: FC Kansas City is already lacking in national team talent, so they are used to playing without help from star talent, which goes against Orlando. However, I think Orlando will fare well without Ashlyn Harris. Kansas City has only scored two goals this entire season, attributed to their lack of offensive talent, so I don't see the Pride being at a deficit without Harris. On the other hand I think playing without Alex Morgan will be a bit of a hit to the Pride. With Sarah Hagen injured, if she can't play there is a hole in the forward position and not many who are in line to fill it. It will be important to see some of the other players step up and fill that gap.
Austin: This will be a tough test for Aubrey Bledsoe in goal, having to try and live up to the expectations Ashlyn Harris has laid down. Considering she only has one NWSL appearance in her career, she'll need to rely heavily on her back line to try and keep the clean sheet. As for Alex Morgan missing, the Pride have shown they can put the ball in the back of the net without Morgan, but she will still be missed up front from a creator's perspective. This should be good practice for when Morgan and Harris will be missing during the summer.
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And thus concludes your roundtable discussion for Match 12 as Orlando City prepares for a date with the Philadelphia Union and the Pride heads to Kansas City to visit FCKC.
Feel free to add your answers to the questions above or explain why our staff is right/wrong in their predictions or analysis in the comments section below.