The Lions were busy this week, holding on for a 0-0 draw with the Colorado Rapids before conceding a late goal to lose to Toronto FC 2-1 at home. Did Jason Kreis find the solution to the back four equation? With the third match against New York City FC up next, what should be remembered from the first two matches? What will the Pride do without Steph Catley?
Against Colorado, we saw José Aja and Mikey Ambrose start on the back line, bringing good results with them. What did you like seeing out of them in keeping even with the Rapids?
Robby: They stayed focused, which has been a consistent problem with the back line all year. Ambrose did a great job defending the left flank and showed flashes of what he can contribute on offense. Aja put in a solid 76 minutes of work, but it would be a little more ideal to see him fully match fit so he can go the whole 90.
Austin: I think what most people liked seeing from the two new starters was just something different from the norm. It's been a struggle with the back line throughout the year and grabbing a shutout on the road with two new starters is always something that will pique interest for the future. While both of them, specifically Ambrose, looked a bit timid at times, more games under their belts could only help their confidence. If they can replicate what they did in Colorado, who would say no to that?
Wednesday night against Toronto, Luke Boden played left back better than he has in recent memory, highlighted by a beautiful cross to Cyle Larin for Orlando City's only goal -- do you think he is the starter moving forward, or is Mikey Ambrose the better option?
Austin: I feel that, depending on the match-up, either one could start. Both of them have different aspects of their game that benefit the team, but how those are utilized can change depending on which team the Lions face. Boden provides better service into the box, while Ambrose is quicker and is able to track back to defend easier. One of them will have to flat out earn the starting spot, but for now, it's completely up for grabs.
Gavin: Outside of his assist on Larin's goal, I really did not think Boden was all that great in this match-up. I thought the obvious reason for his start was because Ambrose started and played just a few days ago, at altitude, so he wouldn't be fresh enough to play against Toronto. That said, I personally would give the nod to Ambrose this Sunday against NYCFC.
New York City FC comes to the Campground this weekend and finds itself second in the table. Orlando City won the first match-up and pulled even for a draw in the second -- tactically speaking, how do they remain undefeated in round 3?
Gavin: Well, the biggest difference between the first two meetings is that Orlando City will actually be hosting this match-up as opposed to being on the road at the tiny bowling lane pitch in Yankee Stadium. The Lions are going to need to be able to stop David Villa, who is making a strong case to be the MLS MVP this season, and that means Tommy Redding stepping up for another strong game against Villa like we've already seen this season. Defense is the key, as always, for Orlando facing a strong attacking side that's even seeing Frank Lampard producing big numbers now.
Austin: NYCFC is on fire right now in terms of game form. Orlando City is, well, not. The only benefit going into this one for the Lions is that it's on their home turf. The crowd always has an effect on games, so I could see Orlando pulling out a result. But with David Villa scoring goals the way he has been and the Lions' defense and their recent play, it won't be an easy task. Having Kevin Molino back and healthy will also be key for Orlando, since he has been most of the team's offense this year. Defense shutting down Villa + Molino back = result for Orlando (fingers crossed).
Robby: The defense is what it comes down to for a shot at points this weekend. NYCFC has a very consistent attack and a lot of players with the capability to score. Orlando needs to control the possession and minimize the work for the defenders.
Tommy Redding did a great job on David Villa when given the task -- if given the option, which center back would you want to see marking the striker?
Austin: Tommy Redding hands down. No other center back on this current roster has the pace to keep up with Villa in a foot race and with his veteran knowledge of the game, he can get behind the back line and really make it a nightmare for Orlando. Redding has been good in keeping Villa in front of him most of the time and has limited his chances against the Lions. If he can replicate those past performances against Villa in Orlando, there's no one else i'd rather have marking him.
Robby: After this last match, Aja should get the nod for this weekend. He played with a chip on his shoulder and is definitely not letting his opportunity for minutes go to waste. Plus, he contributed to a rare OCSC clean sheet.
Gavin: Like I said above, Redding has shown already he can handle anyone in this league, and it's going to take a team effort to stop Villa and company, but I believe Redding on Villa gives Orlando its best opportunity to grab three points -- or at least keep Villa off the board.
With Stephanie Catley injured, what can Tom Sermanni do to get the team ready for the Washington Spirit's No. 2-ranked offense?
Austin: It'll be a tough ask for the Pride to replace a player like Catley, but both Sam Witteman and Kristen Edmonds have played as left backs as of late and have previous experience playing there. Edmonds has been a key cog on the offensive end this year, so I would give Witteman the nod for the back line job. The rest of the defense is fresh out of Rio, so hopefully their fitness wouldn't be an issue. Other than that, shutting down Crystal Dunn and Estefanía Banini will be key to keeping the scoreline close.
Robby: Losing Catley is a big blow to the team's defense. Luckily, since she has had international duty, the team has already explored other potential players to play left back.
Gavin: I imagine they will go with either Kristen Edmonds or Sam Witteman to cover for her loss, but of course you can't rule out bringing in another defender.
The Pride managed just two shots the last time they met the Spirit. Is there an exploitable weakness in Washington's defense? How can the Pride threaten the net more this time?
Gavin: They have Alex Morgan back now, so that helps with their offensive concerns.
Austin: The influx of offense returning to the Pride lineup should bolster their chances on the offensive end compared to the team's most recent matches, but even at full strength the team couldn't break down the Spirit defense. Playing at home this time should play in Orlando's favor, but they'll need Morgan, Edmonds and Spencer to step up and be creative in the attacking third. Luckily for the Pride, the two teams have already faced each other, so if there is a way to exploit the Spirit defense, Sermanni and his staff will have watched the film from the previous game and found it.
And this edition of the roundtable is adjourned. Let your opinions be heard below, and remember to tune in Saturday night when Orlando City B faces the Richmond Kickers in a rematch to see who may be next to receive the call-up.