Orlando City plays its third game in seven days, hoping to keep its meager postseason chances on life support after an improbable 6-1 win over New England in the midweek. To keep those hopes alive, the Lions need lots of help but they’ll also have to do something they’ve not yet done — beat FC Dallas. In fact, Orlando has yet to even score a goal in the series, losing 2-0 in 2015 and 4-0 last year in what turned out to be Adrian Heath’s final match as City’s gaffer.
This will be the Lions’ first shot at FC Dallas with a different coach on the bench and hopefully Jason Kreis bottled some of that scoring magic from Wednesday to save for Saturday afternoon.
Here to teach us more about the 2017 edition of the 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.
It’s been a long time since these teams have played. What’s different about FC Dallas in 2017?
Drew Epperley: Well, where do we begin? Going into the season, Dallas added a few players like Javier Morales, Cristian Colman, and Roland Lamah, to go along with a slew of Homegrown Players. The Homegrowns have been waiting for their chance to shine while the others have seen plenty of minutes over the course of the season.
It has been an up and down season to say the least. For the first four months or so, this team coasted through things, picking up a bunch of points. It came within minutes of advancing to a Champions League final and had most people convinced that when Mauro Diaz was fully healthy, it'd flip the switch and begin to really cook with gas.
Instead, the summer came and so did a long dry spell that just ended Wednesday night. Ten games without a win is a long time, one that really drains players, coaches, and fans. The offense dried up, the defense that was once stout became extremely leaky, injuries played a part, and about everything that could go wrong all at once did.
Both teams started the season hot but then sort of spiraled out of control. What has caused Dallas to do so?
DE: Like I mentioned, just about everything that could go wrong did. For me, it came down to confidence. You could see it more and more when the team was losing that they had absolutely no confidence or swagger about them. Most of the early part of the season they looked the part and had no issues. This slump showed that this group had to work through some demons to get out of it. Sadly, it just took a lot longer than it has over the last two or three years.
Was Wednesday’s win a return to form for FC Dallas or was it a product of playing at home against a Colorado side?
DE: I think the first half was certainly FC Dallas doing what we expected them to do this year. The team got back to basics and really played its style of game from the wings and with speed. Diaz was also pulling the right strings and Morales was a breath of fresh air that we haven't seen out of him in some time on the field.
On the flip side, it was against easily one of the worst teams in MLS right now. Colorado looks like a team that doesn't want to play anymore this season. In fact, after being down 2-0, they looked perfectly content letting FC Dallas dominate the possession.
So, we can take part of the game with a grain of salt but, at the end of it all, it was a game that ended a really long slump for FC Dallas.
Injuries?/Suspensions?/Projected starting XI?/Score prediction?
DE: Injuries: Kellyn Acosta (fatigue) is questionable.
Starting XI: Jesse Gonzalez; Hernan Grana, Matt Hedges, Atiba Harris, Maynor Figueroa; Carlos Gruezo, Victor Ulloa; Mauro Diaz, Roland Lamah, Michael Barrios; Maxi Urruti.
Prediction: Let me just go with my classic 1-1.
Big thanks to Drew from Big D Soccer for giving us the scoop on FC Dallas.