Orlando City fell 2-0 to New York Red Bulls Wednesday night, leaving the Lions still in search of their first win (and goal) of the Bobby Murphy era. Will they be able to slow down the Vancouver Whitecaps midfield enough to earn it this weekend?
The Pride did what needed to be done to secure three points against the Boston Breakers. Can they find back-to-back wins against Chicago?
Brek Shea has found himself in the captain's armband in both games under Bobby Murphy. Do you see him as a reputable leader for this club?
Michael: I don't know, honestly. I'm not down in the trenches with him. He's very quiet and soft spoken in interviews but on the field he doesn't seem that way. I don't know if he's a cerebral enough player to wear the armband. Look at Wednesday night. He was sitting on four yellow cards and needed two more games without a booking to have one rescinded, and he takes a silly card for dissent. If Rivas truly has visa issues and can't go to Canada, that move leaves the club without a left wing. That doesn't scream "captain material" to me, but ultimately the players and coach have to make that decision.
Austin: In terms of being a prototypical "captain," Brek Shea is not that. He can be a fairly quiet and reserved guy both on and off the field and has a tendency to get a bit hot headed in moments of the game, making silly mistakes. He's also more of a "lead by example" kind of captain, rather than a vocal leader. At the same time, he has been a professional player for a longer time than most others on the pitch and the players seem to respect him, so I can understand why both Murphy and Heath chose him as a captain at different times during the year.
Brad: Putting it nicely, no. Shea hasn't really had the same pull with this team that someone with the tenure that Kevin Molino has (who, despite his performance on Wednesday, I believe should have been wearing the armband). The rumors of Shea being on the bubble and in potential trade talk haven't really produced anything, but more than him being a leader, I would expect him to be a piece that brings in some fresh legs as a new era begins in Orlando.
With no goals scored in the last three games, how can Murphy get these Lions scoring again?
Austin: I think the team's confidence is shot right now. After that 4-0 drubbing they took at the hands of FC Dallas, they haven't been the same team on the pitch. Obviously that loss was paired with their coach being fired, which probably doesn't help things. Plus, the players are hearing all kinds of criticism from fans and media alike, which just adds on to the frustration. Somehow, Murphy needs to get inside the players' heads and boost their confidence. Convince them that they are good players, convince them to stop being so hesitant in front of goal, convince them that, as a unit, they can beat any team. They've proven that they can score with the roster that they have, so they just need to prove it again. That could be the biggest thing to help with this scoring drought.
Brad: Aside from finding a Lazarus Pit to lower the team into so they're magically healed and find their old form again, I'm not sure. Hopefully, the squad's captain comes back healthy and in form and the dynamic duo of Kaká and Larin finds a way to salvage a season that isn't entirely out of grasp yet.
Michael: I applaud Murphy for trying something unconventional. It didn't work, but at least he tried something. I felt like the last time the Lions went to Red Bull Arena under Heath they forgot why they scored five goals there last year -- Rivas to Larin. New York had no answer for the Brek/Rivas combo down the left and the Colombian's crosses to Kid Fantastic were spot on that night. Murphy could have gone back to that for Wednesday's game but chose instead to stick Rivas up top. He's just not good in an isolated striker role, which we've seen in the past. Maybe he tears it up in training in that role, but in games he just doesn't get much done.
I would like to see Murphy try Baptista at CAM, keeping Molino out wide to the right. Trust The Beast to give you a solid 65-70 minutes and take advantage of his size and strength underneath Larin. Aside from that, there is nothing of quality coming in from the flanks. The service of the fullbacks must be better.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC are next on the docket, and have proven to be an explosive MLS offense with the second-highest total goals scored thus far. With Orlando City's back line struggles, will they be able to do anything to slow down the likes of Kekuta Manneh, Christian Bolanos, and Pedro Morales, or will they be forced to try outgunning the Whitecaps?
Michael: The Lions have been better defensively of late, but when you can't score and basically can't even get forward, you're stuck defending all game long, like we saw against Houston and New York. Murphy seems to be placing more emphasis on not conceding but this team has been a mess offensively since the departure of Adrian Winter with Kaká sidelined. Teams are able to collapse on Molino and render him ineffective since no one else seems capable of taking on and beating defenders 1-v-1. I expect we'll see a similar game to Wednesday...defend, defend, defend and hope to get one on the counter. I don't expect a better result based on what we've seen, especially with Shea suspended and now Harrison Heath injured.
Brad: I do think things get worse before they get better for Orlando. Their next four matches are at Vancouver, at Columbus, Revs at home, and Sounders at home. This match against Vancouver is another in the second miserable summer at Camping World Stadium and aside from seeing a back line that has played together more than 90 minutes, I really don't know what's going to help Orlando's chances before fall.
Austin: You will most likely see a more defensive lineup from the Lions come Saturday. It's an away game, against speedy forwards and talented midfielders and half your roster is basically hurt. It doesn't mix well for the Lions to do anything else but defend and counter for 90 minutes. Pulling out a draw will most likely be the team's goal at this point, with everything else considered.
Kendall Waston and Tim Parker dominate the air for Vancouver, combining for almost five aerials won per game. Is there anything the Lions can do to nullify this strength of Vancouver's, as it is an obvious weakness for this club?
Brad: Set pieces are a glaring weakness for Orlando City and aside from the obvious in limiting free kicks the Whitecaps get in Orlando's area, I'd try to keep Vancouver honest with their possession and not let them get balls up and challenge them.
Austin: With set pieces being such a glaring problem with the current Orlando City defense, the best thing Orlando can do is simply not give up any opportunities for set pieces. Limiting those chances will hopefully nullify Waston and Parker's effectiveness
Michael: The Lions really struggled to win aerial balls against New York on set pieces. Seb Hines seems the only defender capable of winning balls in the air and Larin can help when he's in the game. The team must find help in the transfer window because it's a weakness of the current roster. On the offensive end, if Larin can't win battles in the air against the center backs, the Lions will need to move the ball quickly and decisively on the ground.
Kristen Edmonds was fantastic against Boston, scoring both goals late to steal three points for the Pride. How did they find themselves in a position to need two goals as the game wound down against a club that had scored just three times coming into the match?
Michael: There are a couple reasons the Pride fell behind. The first is that Kaitlyn Savage had a poor touch on her first attempt on a very slick and wet Camping World Stadium surface. That gave Boston a gimme, which is shockingly in the running for NWSL Goal of the Week. The second is that the team moved the ball too slowly in the attacking third and was not aggressive enough in making runs and playing balls behind the back line early for Jamia Fields and Jasmyne Spencer to run onto. The Breakers weren't much of a threat most of the game, it was just a matter of the Pride being too deliberate, which Tom Sermanni touched on after the match and is something I'm sure they worked on this week. At least I hope they did, because the Red Stars are much better than the Breakers and this is potentially a battle that could decide the fourth playoff spot.
Brad: Like the other Pro club in Orlando, the Pride found themselves playing with a makeshift formation. Although, this was because key players were called up for international duty and the team hasn't had quite had the same amount of time getting to mesh as other teams have in this aspect. I'm willing to give them a lot more leeway, especially considering they got three points from the match, that always helps.
Austin: Much like the men's team, the Pride were forced to use a pieced together formation, due to the international call-ups that will be affecting this team for the next month or so. The main reason the club didn't look cohesive for most of the match was because the team was trying to find a rhythm, since most of the players hadn't played with each other as starters. All things considered, the ladies did an excellent job maintaining composure and continuing to force the ball towards goal, eventually getting those two stoppage time goals.
The Chicago Red Stars come to the Campground next in a battle of two mid-table teams. Tom Sermanni's squad hasn't won back to back games since early May -- is this the time to repeat the feat?
Brad: Considering the Red Stars played a really close game when the club was at full strength that Chicago ultimately won 1-0, it'll be interesting to see how this one plays out. One thing to consider is that were it not for Red Stars keeper Alyssa Naeher, it could have been a pretty well convincing win for the Pride.
Michael: Now is the time to play Chicago. For all the pieces Orlando is missing, the Red Stars are also affected by international call-ups. Their top goalkeeper, striker and defender are all USWNT players in Alyssa Naeher, Christen Press, and Julie Johnston, respectively. With the two teams knotted on 18 points in a fourth-place tie, a Pride win would nullify the Red Stars' current head-to-head tiebreaker and push Orlando ahead on points, with the wins and goal differential tiebreakers in hand - with seven matches left in the season. It's a huge game and Orlando has the talent to win it, but the back line must hold together again and the Pride need to get some offense from the front line of Fields-Hagen-Spencer.
Austin: The Pride have a good chance of pulling out two wins in a row. The Red Stars have also had their fair share of international call-ups and one of the big reasons that Chicago only won 1-0 the last time the two teams played was goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, who has been called up for U.S. Women's National Team duty for the Olympics. If Edmonds and Spencer can continue their fine run of form, I don't see why Orlando doesn't pull this one out.
And this edition of the roundtable is adjourned. Let your opinions be heard below, and don't be afraid to put down Pokemon Go and pick up a book or a magazine or quite literally anything else.