Orlando City will try to do something tomorrow night that the club hasn’t done since March 18 through April 3 — string together back-to-back wins. Yes, it’s been that kind of season for the Lions, who have put together some unbeaten strings, but have only won consecutive games one time in 2016.
If it’s going to happen, that win will have to come against the Seattle Sounders, a club that buried the Lions 4-0 at CenturyLink Field last year, albeit with only 10 men on the pitch for almost an hour. Jason Kreis has had two weeks with his new charges and will try to piece together a winning lineup from what he’s learned about his players to date. If it makes you feel any better, Orlando City won its first game of August last year, 5-2.
Graciously stopping by to give us an advance scouting report on the Sounders is Dave Clark from SB Nation’s Seattle blog, Sounder at Heart. Dave was kind enough to answer my questions about SSFC and I replied to his as well.
It’s been a while since Orlando City and Seattle last met. Who are the Sounders’ key additions and subtractions since the last meeting that we should know about and how have they affected the team and approach so far in 2016?
Dave Clark: There's been a massive amount of change. Obafemi Martins is gone. So is Sigi Schmid, Lamar Neagle, Chad Barrett, Marco Pappa, Azira, Pineda and winning. The key additions were Jordan Morris, Joevin Jones and, within the last week, Interim Head Coach Brian Schmetzer, Nicolas Lodeiro, and Alvaro Fernandez.
The year started with high expectations even with the absence of Oba. That shifted in the past month and now there are no expectations beyond figuring out how to get Clint, Nico, and Jordan to be a solid MLS attack. If those three can work well together, the Sounders should start scoring again. This stretch run could result in a miracle playoff appearance, but it is much more likely to be focused on figuring out who can power a return to Sounders soccer in 2017.
One of your new arrivals is Nicolas Lodeiro, a new DP midfielder. Word is that he made the team look completely different against the Galaxy. How did he do that and what can we expect from the Uruguayan?
DC: Landing in Seattle on Tuesday and being introduced at a press conference on Wednesday (after which he did some touristy stuff) meant that Nico had just two practices to integrate with a new team. He never played on an artificial surface in his life. Despite those circumstances, he had 124 (or 123, 126 depending on source) touches, good for third highest in MLS this season. He slipped out three key passes with four shots of his own. Lodeiro was six of 10 for long balls as well. He made the MLS Team of the Week.
Again, he joined in poor circumstances to have an immediate impact and did so anyway.
The 27-year-old playmaker is Uruguay's number 10 and the key creator for Boca Juniors. Think about what GBS [Ed. note: Guillermo Barros Schelotto] was when he joined MLS, and then make him seven years younger.
There are huge expectations for Lodeiro, but the initial game is an indication that he should be able to live up to those. Seattle's had a couple creative No. 10s before, but the two best were older (Ljungberg and Rosales). Now they have one to build a team identity around. It is probably too late for 2016, but Nico will be here until 2019. It should be a fun ride.
What has been the fallout from the Sigi Schmid firing (sorry, "mutual parting of ways") in Sounder land and as a result of the coaching change, what kind of tactics and formation should we expect from Seattle this weekend?
DC: The formation is only slightly changing. What is more significant is how Schmetzer communicates with the players and what he expects during games. Things are a bit more holistic and player driven now. Schmetz wants the players on the field to figure out when and how to press, for example. He also hopes that bench players will go on the field with an understanding of how the XI behaved to that point and their fit into that behavior. It's more of how special ops works versus how the army works, to use an analogy that maybe only I know.
Can you please give us your key injuries/suspensions, projected starting XI and score prediction?
DC: Projected lineup: Stefan Frei; Joevin Jones, Chad Marshall, Brad Evans, Tyrone Mears; Osvaldo Alonso, Cristian Roldan; Clint Dempsey, Nicolas Lodeiro, Alvaro Fernandez; Jordan Morris
Erik Friberg has a minor ankle injury, but should be in the 18.
Roman Torres is nearly back from his ACL injury, but will not travel.
I predicted a 2-1 Lions win on the PawedCast.
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Big thanks to Dave from Sounder at Heart for giving us some insight on tomorrow night’s opponents from the Pacific Northwest.