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Staff Roundtable: Orlando City Hosts San Jose Earthquakes; Pride Visit Washington Spirit

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It's time once again to gather around the big purple table and talk OCSC with The Mane Land staff. How do you attack the Earthquakes' defense? How is the future at center back? Can the Pride score goals on the road? We've got our takes and invite yours.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Orlando City gears up for the visiting San Jose Earthquakes this Saturday as the club returns to league play. The Quakes have featured one of the stronger defenses in the league, but one of Orlando City's strikers has been in great form recently.

The Washington Spirit have been one of the best teams the NWSL has had to offer, and the Pride have struggled to score on the road. They'll take their 4-4 record to Maryland Soccerplex -- which side of .500 will they come home on?

Daniel McGannJeff Milby, and Brent Petkus discuss all this and more in this week's edition of The Mane Land Roundtable.

Orlando has been rocked by a weekend of uninitiated, fatal violence. What sort of atmosphere are you expecting Saturday night at Camping World Stadium?

Daniel: One of solidarity. Since coming to Orlando, I have noticed that even though this city may be known for its tourism, it is Orlando's sense of community that sets this city apart. Saturday may be reflective, emotional, and difficult for some, but together this city will become stronger.

Jeff: I expect it to be a rather surreal atmosphere Saturday, but I also expect it to be a positive one. Sports has a way of uniting people in the wake of a tragedy, and it gives them a sense of normalcy at a time when normal feels very far away. Considering the nature of this particular tragedy, you'd expect the soccer community -- which has always been more forward thinking on LGBTQ acceptance than other sports -- to make a big show of support, unity and pride in response to the attack.

Brent: I am expecting an atmosphere that will rival the first game ever for Orlando City in MLS. The community wants a reason to cheer and come together with friends. We will get that chance on Saturday and it will be both a somber but healing atmosphere. I know I have been looking forward to Saturday to see some friends and cheer.

The San Jose Earthquakes have been a strong defensive side this season, allowing just 16 goals in 14 matches, good for third best in the Western Conference. How can Adrian Heath plan to attack this defense?

Daniel: With speed and movement. Even though the Quakes have been difficult to break down and are playing well defensively on set pieces, Orlando could have the ability to run at them with the speed of play OCSC is capable of. Hopefully we see a lineup that will reflect that idea.

Jeff: In order to score on San Jose you need to fight fire with fire. San Jose likes to muck it up, making challenges and disrupting your rhythm of play. Orlando needs to be the more aggressive team, be strong with the ball and be quicker to 50-50 balls. The Lions can't let the Quakes' defensive style frustrate them into silly fouls or giveaways, especially if they go down a goal at any point.

Julio Baptista looked great coming on against NYCFC, and has been fitting in well with the Lions. Should an expanded role be discussed?

Jeff: It's definitely a talking point worth exploring. A player like Baptista has had many good moments in purple, but I suppose whether or not he deserves an expanded role depends on how Orlando management and Adrian Heath view this season. If, as Phil Rawlins alluded in the preseason, winning in the moment is a must, then expanding Baptista's presence on the team is worth considering.

Daniel: He also looked good on Wednesday in the U.S. Open Cup match vs. Jacksonville, even though he missed a clear chance early. But, arguing for more playing time when he has been seeing the pitch about as much as he should is a different story. This team is deep and unless there are injuries or a specific match-up, I don't expect more than a sub appearance.

Brent: Julio Baptista played 90 minutes in the U.S. Open Cup win over Jacksonville, so I don't see him having an expanded role this week. I really like the super sub role he currently has on this team. He enters the game and is a spark to the team. I just don't know if he still has the fitness to go 90 minutes every week.

Sean Rollins recently wrote of the depth the organization has at center back. Do you agree or disagree with his assessment? Is there a solution within the organization, or should the club be active in the transfer window?

Brent: I think there needs to be consistency in the back line. I think that is the most crucial reason why back fours are successful. If this team wants to continue to make a run in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and MLS playoffs, they need to bring back some experience on the back line. This argument is very similar to the one that said we needed a more experienced striker with Cyle Larin. The club brought in Baptista and we are talking about expanding his role.

Jeff: I agree with Sean that there is now some depth at that position throughout the organization, but I question how quality that depth is. Donovan and Garcia have been getting playing time with OCB, but haven't been terribly successful in the USL. OCB has given up the third-most goals in the third division, and Mark Ridgers has been relied upon to make some big saves so far this season. Perhaps it's early to condemn this center back group, but if injury strikes and the Lions need a replacement at the MLS level, they may need to look outside of this current crop.

Daniel: Do not forget that Luke Boden can provide depth, as well as some other players on the roster. However, having only three true options at that position is a bit of a concern. This can be exacerbated as well considering Hines' injury history, so I fully expect a central defender to be brought in this Summer. Whether that player is for the MLS side or someone that pushes Conor Donovan up the depth ladder is something we will have to wait on.

Pride Time

The Orlando Pride have now been outscored 6-2 on the road. Is there anything Tom Sermanni can do differently to get the club scoring goals away from home?

Brent: I don't think there is a lot Sermanni can do differently. He has to roll out Alex Morgan as his striker and continue to ride her streak. She is crucial to whether or not they are successful. Even though they aren't doing well on the road, I think Sermanni is exceeding expectations with this team and they are on pace to make the playoffs.

Daniel: Get them to be more proactive on the ball and to stop playing so direct. It seems to be an issue on the road with Orlando playing the type of direct play that can hinder an offense away from home. This team could be extremely good at possession, but at times they seem to squander that.

Jeff: Playing on the road is much more difficult than playing at home, and it's true that the Pride have been outscored on the road, but Orlando hasn't been out of these games. Of the Pride's road losses, only one was decided by more than one goal. Sometimes with a new group of players you have to take some bumps on the road before you can turn things in a positive direction. Patience.

The Washington Spirit have lost just once this season, and come into this match with a feared one-two punch of Joanna Lohman and Diana Matheson, who have combined for six of the side's nine goals. Can the Pride do anything to slow these two down?

Jeff: If you want to stop a goal scorer, you need to cut off their service. In the case of Washington, with two big goalscorers, that becomes a difficult task. Be strong in the air, be a nuisance to the player on the ball, and be aggressive when cutting out balls coming into attacking areas. Especially on the road, that's easier said than done, but I suspect Tom Sermanni will be employing a similar strategy on Saturday.

Brent: Before the season, if I had to pick a team who I thought was going to win the NWSL it was going to be the Washington Spirit. They have so many great weapons aside from the ones you mentioned; they also have Crystal Dunn and Ali Krieger. Orlando Pride have to be well organized and compact in defense. I think they need to look to counter and be okay with a draw.

Daniel: Yes, posses the ball and stop giving it away so cheaply. Pretty simple really.

***

And this edition of the roundtable is adjourned. Let your opinions be heard below, and remember to figure out how the hell to use your picture-in-picture feature on the TV -- the Pride and Lions will be playing at the same time this week. And since the Pride match will be on YouTube, make sure your television has that capability...or just keep your tablet or laptop nearby.