Does Carlos Rivas have a future as a striker? Who makes the best center back pairing? How can the Lions beat the Galaxy? Are the Pride ready for an immediate rematch with Sky Blue FC following their 1-1 draw?
Allen Etzler, Jeff Milby and yours truly discuss all this and more in this week's edition of The Mane Land Roundtable.
Carlos Rivas played out of his mind Wednesday night, scoring a goal with two assists and drawing a penalty as the striker up top. Does he have a future in the role?
Allen: Carlos Rivas could have a future in any role he chooses. The only person who stops Carlos Rivas is Carlos Rivas. If he can learn to play consistently, and keep from shanking shots into Narnia, he could absolutely have a future role as a striker.
Wade: Since news broke of Rivas' acquisition, I expected to see him as a striker. While his speed out wide is an enticing idea, I ultimately think he'll be best served up top -- though truthfully, pairing him with Kid Fantastic is what I'm most interested in seeing.
Jeff: If he does, it'll be as a change of pace to Cyle Larin. Granted, a strong performance is nice but flashes in the pan are frequent in MLS (anyone remember David Estrada scoring a hat trick on opening day for the Sounders a couple of years back? No?). Considering the up-and-down play of Rivas in his Lion career, this performance was encouraging, but let's not go and rebuild the attack around him just yet.
At this point, is it fair to say David Mateos and Jose Aja are the club's best options at center back?
Jeff: At the moment, I'd say yes. The two have started three of the last four Orlando games together, which includes both of the Lions' back-to-back wins, and in those four the Lions have conceded just two goals and haven't lost. Jason Kreis was outspoken about establishing a defense-first culture and the center back pairing is key to that, and the results have shown that this pairing can be successful.
Allen: Sure. I think there needs to be a rotation with all four (Aja, Mateos, Redding and Hines) when they're healthy. None of these guys are dominant enough to really warrant being selected in the XI every game. I think it needs to be based on match-up and how good each player looked in practice that week.
Wade: Absolutely. Whether or not that's a compliment to them or an indictment on the unit as a whole is up for debate.
The Galaxy feature one of the strongest defenses in Major League Soccer, allowing only 30 goals on the year. Can a well-rested Cyle Larin deliver in front of net?
Wade: There's no doubt Larin is capable of scoring goals every time his spikes touch a pitch, and his legs will be fresh for what is a marquee match. The pressure and spotlight will be on, and I'm looking forward to seeing if he'll shine in this one. Gun to my head -- he scores at least once.
Allen: I sure would like to see him get some help. I think if Rivas can play he did Wednesday, in whatever position he's in, then that would certainly loosen up the defense for Larin to take advantage of. Whether or not Larin finds the net is meaningless. It's going to take more than one goal to beat the Galaxy. Orlando City needs to find multiple ways to get good looks on net.
Jeff: Larin played 70+ minutes in both of Canada's World Cup qualifiers over the weekend, scoring once, so you could make the argument that he's in form for this one. Needless to say, Orlando City is greatly helped from a healthy, hungry, and in-form Larin, so Lion fans should hope that the former UConn Husky can play strong against an injury-laden and tired Galaxy squad that gave up three goals on the road to RSL midweek.
LA has lost the fewest matches (4) in the league -- what is the biggest tactical key to beating them?
Jeff: Like a classic Bruce Arena team, the Galaxy excel -- especially lately -- at defending and scoring on the counter. That is a difficult formula to beat, especially if the defense can be strong. If it weren't for a Brian Rowe gaffe in goal, LA might have won on the road midweek, which would have been their second victory in three games. Orlando must be clinical when it gets chances and have possession with purpose, not just knocking square balls around all day.
Allen: I think you have to dance with who you brung. The key for Orlando City should be to do what Orlando City does well. Play through Kaká and Larin. Hopefully, Rivas can bring another dangerous attacking threat to the pitch and expect Kevin Molino to continue being the most consistent player on the team. If those four can play well, I think that goes a long way in beating the Galaxy.
Wade: It's supremely important for the back line to play well in this one. The center backs cannot be found out of position, and shouldn't try to get too cute with the offside trap. The full backs will need to keep streaking wingers in front of them, and I'm hoping to see Mikey Ambrose given the test.
The Pride are winless in six now, following the 1-1 road draw with Sky Blue FC. Alex Morgan and Ashlyn Harris were in great form -- who needs to step up?
Allen: All of them. Two players aren't going to get it done. They all need to do better. This season has been a huge disappointment. They're tough to watch.
Jeff: The Pride have scored the third-fewest goals in the league (18). Lineup inconsistencies are a way of life at this point in the NWSL, but one regular player in the Pride XI has been Jasmyne Spencer. Despite playing in every game this year for the Pride, the forward is just third on the team in goals scored. If she is going to be an everyday player, her production needs to match that level of consistency. Perhaps her benching against Sky Blue FC was meant to send a message.
Wade: I can't help but think the back line needs to be stronger when I'm watching Ashlyn Harris making big saves game in and game out. Jasmyne Spencer should be more consistent, but I have a hard time calling her a problem this season.
Sky Blue FC comes to Orlando this weekend for an immediate rematch. Do you expect to see Jasmyne Spencer back in the starting lineup?
Jeff: I'll lean towards yes. The saying in basketball is that there is no greater teaching tool than the bench, and I'm certain it applies in soccer as well. Orlando didn't score until after she entered the game, so if Sermanni was making a more substantial change to the lineup he might now have second thoughts. I think her benching was meant to send a message, and I say she starts.
Wade: I'd be very surprised to see her on the bench for this one.
Allen: I think she should be in the lineup. But I never know what to expect from this team.
And this week's edition of the roundtable is adjourned. Sound off with your opinions below and enjoy your weekend.