Strange things happen at the end of nearly every Orlando City match and last Saturday’s win over Toronto FC was no exception. Neither was Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup match but the less said about that, the better. So what late-game magic awaits us this week at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, TX?
One thing is sure: the Lions are going to need whatever magic they can muster against a formidable FC Dallas side that is unbeaten at home and one of the favorites to win the Supporters Shield. Both teams played 120 minutes in the midweek Cup games so tired legs could play a factor.
This will be Orlando City’s second straight Independence Day spent on the road playing a Western Conference opponent. Last year, the Lions drew 1-1 at Real Salt Lake on the Fourth of July, in a game that saw Kaká get sent off.
The Artists Formerly Known as the Burn won last year’s only meeting, 2-0, at the stadium then known as the Citrus Bowl on July 11, 2015. Mauro Diaz and David Texeira scored for the Hoops. Orlando City had to play a weird lineup with Kaká suspended for the match and several players out. Carlos Rivas played forward and Pedro Ribeiro started at central attacking midfield, so you knew it was going to be a challenge for the lads in purple.
"We started slowly, looked lethargic, lacking in energy and probably got what we deserved, which was nothing," is how Head Coach Adrian Heath saw that match.
Here to help us make sense of the 2016 Hoops is Drew Epperley the managing editor from SB Nation's FC Dallas blog, Big D Soccer. I also answered Drew’s questions and you can read my answers over at their place.
Who are FC Dallas’ key off-season additions and subtractions that we should know about and how have they affected Oscar Pareja’s team and approach so far in 2016?
Drew Epperley: The big additions the team brought in over the off-season were Maxi Urruti from Portland through the Re-Entry Draft, Young Designated Player Carlos Gruezo, and some other role players, like Mauro Rosales and Maynor Figueroa. The team is also starting to see some payoff in the addition of Carlos Lizarazo as well. All are contributing in different ways and have made big impacts. Gruezo is actually coming off a pretty solid run in the Copa America tournament that saw him start four games for Ecuador.
I'd also argue that re-signing guys like Walker Zimmerman have also paid off big this season. Zimmerman held out for a couple weeks in the preseason for a new contract as he got a couple training stints in Europe. Ever since his return, he has really proven to be a big-time center back for this team, something that fans have been waiting a couple of season for him to develop into.
Dallas has a formidable offense but the scoring is spread out among a variety of players. How have teams tried to defend the Hoops and what methods have been the most successful in slowing down the attack?
DE: The main thought when defending FCD starts and ends with Mauro Diaz if he is in the starting lineup. When he is out there, the attack all flows through him. So, if you limit his time on the ball, it means guys like Fabian Castillo and Michael Barrios are forced to play back more for the ball and not be free on the wings to use their speed. It also means Urruti is forced to track back more for the ball and not break things free on the wings as well.
When Diaz isn't out there, it really does come down to what teams are able to do against the speed on the wings. Dallas does a good job of exposing teams on the counter attack with their speed. If that is limited, so is their attack.
What kind of formation and tactics can we expect from FC Dallas on Independence Day, against what is most likely going to be a 4-2-3-1 by Orlando City, and what do you view as the game's key match-up?
DE: Given that both teams were involved in a Wednesday night U.S. Open Cup game, it will be interesting to see how Pareja goes in this one. I'd imagine we'll still see a strong lineup come Monday as he goes back to his normal 4-2-3-1 look with Diaz in the attacking midfield role that he works so well in. This allows FCD to play their game and control the tempo and style of the game. I'd also expect the heat to play a factor in this one as it will likely be around 100 degrees come kickoff, something that FCD is definitely more accustomed to dealing with here as the summer kicks up.
The key for Dallas will really come down to maintaining momentum throughout and catching Orlando on counter attack opportunities when they present themselves.
Can you please give us your key injuries/suspensions, projected starting XI and score prediction?
DE: Lineup: Chris Seitz; Maynor Figueroa, Walker Zimmerman, Matt Hedges, Ryan Hollingshead; Carlos Gruezo, Kellyn Acosta; Fabian Castillo, Mauro Diaz, Michael Barrios; Maxi Urruti.
Injuries: Zach Loyd (concussion)
(No prediction given)
Big thanks to Drew from Big D Soccer for giving us some insight on Monday night's opponents from the Lone Star State.