There was no shortage of hysteria Saturday night when Orlando City SC capitalized on a lengthy stoppage time to topple Toronto FC in a 3-2 thriller. Inchy's boys look to carry that momentum to a win when they visit FC Dallas on July 4. Tom Sermanni's substitutions couldn't get the job done when the Pride found themselves down 2-1 against Portland Thorns FC -- can they right the ship in time for the Boston Breakers on July 10?
Sean Rollins, Jeremy Croston, and Nick Morales discuss all this and more in this week's edition of The Mane Land Roundtable.
#MolinoMania has swept over Central Florida, as The Original is now up to six goals and five assists following the Lions' 3-2 win over Toronto FC. Is he an MLS All-Star?
Nick: Yes, I believe Molino has all the ability to be an All-Star and he's certainly building towards a year where he could possibly be considered an "All-Star," but perhaps a bit more consistency is needed to cement that idea. I've said before that Molino is the player that Orlando City should build around going forward because he possesses all the attributes that make a quality attacking player. Pace, intelligence, and a wide range of passing make him a good player, but consistency will send him to that next level.
Jeremy: It's hard not to say yes to this one. If we look at the Lion currently sitting as one of the MLS All-Stars, the body of work this year would seem to indicate Kevin Molino is more deserving than Kaká. Kudos though to Molino for the way he's played, especially considering how hard last year must've been for him. He may not be an All-Star this year, but I think he'll be one for years to come if he decides to stay in Major League Soccer.
Sean: Kevin Molino has been great this season, proving that he's the player everyone thought before his injury last season. It's difficult to say whether he'll be an All-Star as there is stiff competition in the midfield position. My gut feeling says he won't be an All-Star, though I certainly think he deserves it.
Kaká, Darwin Cerén and Cristian Higuita were all back in the midfield for Inchy against Toronto. Will their returns spark a run that sees Orlando City climb back to the top of the Eastern Conference?
Sean: Whether or not Orlando City can climb the standings depends on the health, and in Higuita's case, discipline, going forward. Kaká has only been back for one game but has only played eight of the team's 15 games this season. The team is definitely better with him on the field but it remains to be seen if he can stay healthy long enough to make an impact. Darwin Cerén has yet to regain his full game fitness but I think he'll definitely make a positive impact going forward. The only question not regarding health is Higuita. His aggressive play has caused him to be punished several times over the past two seasons. It will help greatly if he can keep from being sent off or suspended.
Jeremy: Their returns get Orlando City into the playoffs, but I'm not so sure about a run to the top. The team has already given away a bunch of points this season with ties over wins. And in their game against Toronto FC, even with them back, the problem still remains of conceding cheap goals late. To get to the top of this watered down conference, you still need tight defense for 90-plus minutes every game and OCSC isn't doing that right now.
Nick: All of their returns certainly could, but I have really enjoyed seeing other players fit into certain roles in their absence. I think Molino is the perfect mobile No. 10 that can slip in and out of the hole, while Servando Carrasco and Higuita have formed a great partnership in defensive midfield. It certainly never hurts to have the likes of Kaká and Cerén back, but I would worry a bit for those who must be moved out of what may be a better position for them.
We're coming up on a long weekend that sees Orlando City head to Dallas on the Fourth of July. Ryan Hollingshead, Walter Zimmerman, and Matt Hedges have formed a stellar defense that allows just 1.33 goals per game. Would it behoove the Lions to work harder for set pieces this match, or do you believe they can score the goals needed from open play against this group of defenders?
Nick: This Orlando City team always finds a way to score goals, but what the Lions really need to work on is their own defense. Dallas are no slouches going forward, and what has sort of been the case this year is Orlando City's inability to keep goals out, especially at the death. I think If Orlando City could start to shore up the defending without compromising what is statistically the second-best scoring team in the league, this team could really do something great.
Sean: The biggest problem for Orlando City on set pieces is when Seb Hines is out and Tommy Redding is in. Redding is not very good in the air and therefore is a liability on set pieces. Meanwhile, Hines is terrific in the air and is often able to clear out potentially dangerous balls. Obviously Orlando City needs to continue to work on set pieces, but having Hines in the back line makes a difference on those plays.
Jeremy: This team scores, that's not a problem. I think they do better in free flowing situations over the set pieces. Still, with a weapon like Kaká who delivers excellent balls into the box from both corner kicks and set pieces outside the 18, it never hurts to collect a few when the opportunity naturally arises. My issue would be if you try to force more of those situations, you might end up hurting yourself more as it interrupts the flow of the offense moving forward.
Mauro Diaz and Fabian Castillo have been playing very well for Dallas this season. Now that Cerén and Higuita are in the fold, will they be able to contain a Dallas attack that has scored 26 goals so far this season?
Sean: Because Orlando City's style of play has them sending their outside backs forward, they are always vulnerable to the counter attack. This could potentially be a problem with Diaz and Castillo playing for Dallas. Cerén and Higuita must keep their heads and be willing to commit professional fouls to stop the attack for Orlando City to be successful.
Nick: Like I said before, I really enjoyed the partnership that Cerén and Higuita have formed in midfield. Switching players in and out without consistent runs is a bad idea at any time, but against the likes of Diaz and Castillo it may prove to be a terrible decision.
Jeremy: Considering a Toronto team that had scored just 15 goals coming into this past weekend's game found the net twice, I'm not so sure. That being said, if Orlando's philosophy is going to be attack 'til it hurts, I think they could allow two goals in this game and still walk away with a result (win or tie) on the road against a very tough FC Dallas squad, especially with a keeper as solid as Joe Bendik.
Chasing a result against Portland Thorns FC, the Pride found themselves in need of a late goal to secure a point when Tom Sermanni brought on Becky Edwards and Sam Witteman. Would you have made different subs? Why or why not?
Jeremy: I dislike the hindsight questions because we already know the result. I'd like to think Sermanni knows what he is doing and he brought players in he thought would help. And honestly, what were his other choices? On a team that has Alex Morgan as its numero uno and the emerging Jasmyne Spencer, scoring two goals in a game (what the Pride needed to get a point) shouldn't be this difficult. So I guess my answer is no, I wouldn't have. I would've relied on the ladies that got me this far and they were already on the field.
Nick: Becky Edwards was a good substitution I believe, but I'm not sure about Witteman. Chasing the result called for more scorers and though conceding would put them back further, Witteman was probably the wrong move.
Sean: Assuming they are fully healthy, Sarah Hagen and Maddy Evans would be my choices to send in when you are in the position that the Pride were against the Thorns. Both make the Pride more dangerous going forward than Edwards and Witteman in my opinion.
The Pride find themselves sixth in the NWSL in goals scored with just 10 in eleven matches. What is it about this roster that is struggling to capitalize on their scoring chances? How can they use the extended break before their July 10 meeting with the Boston Breakers to rectify this issue?
Nick: The Pride certainly haven't done themselves an extreme service in terms of scoring, but getting the main threat in Alex Morgan better service overall should help the ladies. Let's not forget that this is a relatively new squad that has overachieved.
Jeremy: Bad luck? I mean they are generating chances as you say, but very few find their way home. I guess I'm just surprised to by the lack of offense that this team is producing. Just look at the stat line from the last game - 5 shots on target, seven corners, that should be screaming at least two goals. As for rectifying this issue, the one thing that comes to mind is making Spencer the focal point of the offense and seeing how that goes. Over the past two games, she's earned the right to take control, and maybe that would take some of the pressure Alex Morgan is feeling off of her.
And this edition of the roundtable is adjourned. Let your opinions be heard below, where more people will see them than Orlando City's last cup game.