The Orlando City Lions are on their way to Jacksonville to meet the Armada in the fourth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup for their first match in the month of June. Winning the cup means entry into the CONCACAF Champions League, and you just know Inchy's boys want to get a win against Jacksonville, so we should be looking at a fun one.
What do the Lions need to do to secure advancement to the next round?
Withstand the Early Attack
The Armada are not a strong offensive team, but they are a dangerous one. In 10 NASL matches, the Armada have scored just five goals -- four of them in the first half -- and they score on average in the 29th minute. This is contrary to what we saw in the 2-1 preseason friendly defeat, but is certainly a more complete sample size of data. Matt Bahner is a dangerous defender, and the team has the ability to find goals from set pieces (Mechack Jérôme, anyone?). Our own Austin David is predicting the same back five that started one year ago against Charleston Battery in Luke Boden, Conor Donovan, Seb Hines, Tyler Turner, and Earl Edwards Jr. in net. With Sean Rollins recently reminding us of Donovan's resurgence with Orlando City B, it will be interesting to see if he can stand strong in threatening sequences.
Finish With Composure
Should Orlando City find itself chasing a result, it will be imperative for the players to keep their heads and play within themselves. Jacksonville struggles mightily to close out games -- while its defense is strong inside the first half, the Armada tend to find their faults exposed shortly after. Across the nine matches in which the Armada was scored against, their average time of first goal conceded clocks in at the 59th minute.
If the goals don't come early, do not panic. Should the Lions attack with organization -- and perhaps, with the influence of some timely substitutions -- Inchy's boys should be able to sink the Armada.
Be Physical with Alhassane Keita
If you didn't know Alhassane Keita's name before the February friendly, you sure as hell did afterwards. Keita threatened with a shot just wide early in the second half, before getting one in off David Mateos' leg to put the Armada ahead for the win.
He's started in six matches for Jacksonville so far this season, but hasn't been able to register a point in league play (though he did score in the third-round USOC match against Charleston). He has managed to receive for yellow cards, and I think therein lies the key.
Should a veteran center back start the match, look for the way he plays Keita. We want to see someone inside his kit, giving him no room to breathe and no room to work. We've watched for some time the way players like Cristian Higuita and Rafael Ramos can lose their cool and, as a result, hurt the club. Keita is the kind of player who provides the opportunity for the Lions to be on the positive side of that scenario.
Should Donovan, Devron Garcia, or Tommy Redding see the field at center back? What an opportunity for the boys to earn their name on the lineup card, no?