It could be argued that D.C. United is the perfect opening-match opponent to break in Orlando City’s revamped back line. After all, the club from the American capital finished dead last in the Eastern Conference in 2017 and was tied for the worst offense in the entire league, scoring only 31 goals in 34 matches. But things could be different in 2018.
D.C. added considerable firepower prior to the 2018 season with the arrival of Argentinean winger Yamil Asad. With Asad on one side, U.S. Men’s National Team player Paul Arriola on the other, and Luciano Acosta in the center (though he faces red card suspension from last season’s finale), D.C. United has pieces capable of putting any defense in trouble.
In Orlando’s case, specifically, Saturday’s match will be a good test to see how the back line — and the fullbacks, specifically — operates against dangerous players like Asad and Arriola. With four players competing for two starting spots, a good first impression could be extremely helpful for the Lions’ wide defenders.
On the right side, Scott Sutter, the incumbent from 2017, now faces competition from RJ Allen, brought on from New York City FC. Whichever of the two is picked by Orlando City Head Coach Jason Kreis to start against D.C. — likely Sutter — will go up against Asad.
The 23-year-old Argentinean played for Atlanta United last season and was one of the driving forces of the team’s potent offense with seven goals and 13 assists in 32 matches. He led Atlanta with 1,114 passes in the opposition half and was always a threat with his dribbling ability, especially when drifting inside from the left flank.
On the other side, Arriola is the one to be stopped. The task will fall on the shoulders of either Donny Toia, returning for his second season with Orlando City, or Libyan international Mohamed El-Munir, acquired by the club in December.
Unlike Asad, the 23-year-old Arriola has been with D.C. since last summer, recording 11 matches, one goal, and two assists after joining in August 2017. Having gone through his first preseason with United, the U.S. international is expected to progress and to use his speed to create goal-scoring opportunities from the right wing.
Defending talented and fast players such as Asad and Arriola is hardly an individual task, so defensive midfielders and center backs will also have some level of responsibility here for the Lions. But it will be a good early test for Orlando’s defense, and it starts with the fullbacks going against D.C.’s talented wingers.