Orlando City SC heads into a Friday night match with the Houston Dynamo at home in search of a much-needed win in the wake of a tumultuous week and a half for the club. Will we see a drastic change coming after the embarrassing 4-0 loss to FC Dallas? DaMarcus Beasley has been in great form for Houston lately -- how can the Lions game plan for him? Jasmyne Spencer is on a roll, will she make it three in a row?
Luis Hernandez, Robby Torrence, and Gavin Ewbank discuss all this and more in this week's edition of The Mane Land Roundtable.
Q: The Killer Bees reunited on the left against FC Dallas, and we know how the club played in that 4-0 loss. Should the Lions move forward with this pairing, or return Brek Shea to left back and start Carlos Rivas?
Gavin: Really, we've been watching the same left side pairings for the last year and a half it's tough to say if any of them have been great. Rivas is far more of a flashy, use-his-speed-to-run-by-you-down-the-line kind of winger and doesn't really have a creative side in his game that makes him any more dangerous. Meanwhile, Brek seems to be more of that player, certainly far more than he is a defensive hero on the back line. I think it makes more sense just sticking with Luke Boden, who's a better defender than Brek and good set-piece taker, at left back with Shea on the wings moving forward, or at least until they find an actual creative midfielder to stick up on the left wing.
Luis: I don't think Shea should be moved from the midfield. I think the team, if Rivas makes it into the 18, should play Brek on the left side and have Rivas on the bench to sub in during the second half for his pace. Bodz didn't have his best match in Dallas, but I think he has played better in the past and hopefully he shows that at home on Friday. The club needs to be as offensive minded as possible to take pressure off the back four and Joe Bendik.
Robby: After last week's routing, why not give Rivas a shot? His pace on the outside is something that Houston will definitely have to take into consideration with their game plan. Plus, the back line needs all the help it can get, so moving Brek back may not be a bad idea.
Q: Is there anything schematically OCSC can do to offer better protection for Joe Bendik, or is this a personnel issue?
Robby: Orlando City's back line is definitely the Achilles heel of this team. We've seen just about every player and their backup on the back line get a shot this season and no one has seemed to do Joe any favors. This summer's transfer window might be the best way to offer Bendik better protection.
Luis: The back line really left Bendik out to dry. I don't think the scheme was at fault as much as the execution of the plan by the players. Every match this season, someone on the back line has a mental lapse leading to a goal. The team relaxes when they score, so they can't hold a lead. The bottom line for me is the players need to be professionals, put in effort for the whole match and not switch off so we can win.
Gavin: The biggest things we've seen from this back line are just costly mistakes and poor man marking. How many times have you been able to look at a goal this season and say, "Hey, who was covering that player?" Too many times. I think Kevin Alston is great as a backup right back, but Rafael Ramos is not the answer at that position either, and while Tommy Redding has been great at times this season, he needs a more stable, valuable anchor on the back line next to him at center back. Then, hopefully, we'll start to see fewer mistakes in the back and less pressure on Bendik to come up with big saves.
Q: The Houston Dynamo are on the schedule next, coming to town representing the very bottom of the Western Conference. Should the Lions attack up the right side in an effort to exhaust DaMarcus Beasley, who has found himself in great form in earning a spot on the MLS Team of the Week?
Luis: I don't know if going into the match with Houston and Kaká not playing if Orlando City will focus on one side of the pitch or the other. I'd like the team to move the ball and hold possession up the middle and work the wing with Shea. Targeting Beasley specifically could be part of the plan, but I don't think that will be the case.
Gavin: That's obviously got to be a plan, right? Kevin Molino has been in great form over the past couple of months, especially in recent games, and with Kaká out there's going to be a big need for him to be a constant threat on the right side and force chances down that side. Play the ball through him, let Beasley run around in the Florida humidity, and hope teammates make the right runs for him to set them up.
Robby: Depending on who is starting at right wing, it would be smart to target the space behind DaMarcus since he is very good at supporting the attack. If Orlando holds up on the back line, Molino could be very effective on the counter.
Q: Will we see Kevin Molino start at CAM? Do you think he can be more impactful there vs. on the wing?
Gavin: I don't think so, because if you do play him there, you basically have no one to fill in on the right wing since Adrian Winter is now gone. If anything, I could see interim coach Bobby Murphy changing the shape and running with a 4-3-2-1 with Molino and Shea up top in the two just above Antonio Nocerino, Cristian Higuita, and Darwin Cerén. This way, both Molino and Shea can run off each other and create that space for each other, as well as Cyle Larin up top.
Luis: This could be a career-defining match for Kevin Molino. Heath is no longer the head coach. Kaká is out and someone needs to step up for the team. Nobody embodies Orlando City like The Original. He needs to run the offense as the 10 and use his skill to make key passes to his teammates and score as he trails the play. Orlando City in my opinion can't afford to have Molino out on the wing.
Robby: With Kaká out and Winter gone, it's a tough call to make. Molino's impact on the wing is definitely a strength of City's offense. It's probably best to say Kevin will get the nod at CAM since he is familiar with the position, but the options for right wing become very limited.
Q: The Boston Breakers come to the Campground this Sunday. Jasmyne Spencer has scored in back-to-back games -- can she make it three in a row?
Luis: Expectations will be high for Spencer. Without Alex Morgan, she will be in a great opportunity to score. At practice this week, Jasmyne was working on her finishing in the box, so I think she has an expectation of herself to score too. Yes, she'll make it three in a row.
Gavin: Quite possibly, I love her flash and explosiveness on the field. She's a nightmare for opposing back lines.
Q: Boston has scored just three goals all year. Will the Pride be able to hold on to a clean sheet?
Robby: With Ashlyn Harris away on international duty, it will definitely be easier for the Breakers to get their fourth goal of the season. Although, Boston's offense hasn't been effective this season and not having any consistent goal scorers will definitely give the Pride the upper hand.
Gavin: Yes, I think the Pride will be able to grab a much-needed victory at home on Sunday.
Luis: Boston has had some bad luck this season and of all the teams in the league, the Breakers are least affected by national teamers leaving for Rio. There's just so much change for Orlando on defense that I don't think for the first game they'll be able to keep a clean sheet. The back four and the goalkeeper are still a work in progress. The best way to have a clean sheet against Boston is to score early, often and keep the pressure on their back four.
And this edition of the roundtable is adjourned. Let your opinions be heard below, and remember to pour some of your $11 beer on the ground for our homie Adrian Heath tonight.