In this space I would normally talk about what a long off-season we had and that it’s finally over, but I have to admit that the 2018 MLS season hit me before I knew what was happening. Don’t get me wrong, the off-season is long, but it seems like we just celebrated New Year’s Day. The club made a ton of signings, re-signings, and other announcements and that made the last two months seem to fly by.
Two different-looking teams will take the field on Saturday when Orlando City (0-0-0) and D.C. United (0-0-0) open their respective 2018 MLS campaigns. The bottom two finishers in the Eastern Conference a year ago, the Lions and the Black & Red are seeking a more upward trajectory this season and the winner of this contest will get a leg up on the other in that respect.
This is the first of two meetings between these Eastern Conference rivals, with the return leg coming Aug. 12 at D.C.’s new stadium.
The Lions are 4-3-0 against D.C. in the all-time series since the club joined MLS. Orlando swept the two meetings in 2017, starting with a 2-0 win over United at Orlando City Stadium on May 31. Cyle Larin and Giles Barnes provided the offense to help the Lions snap what was then a six-game winless skid. City also snapped an eight-game skid (0-6-2) when the teams met again on Sept. 9, when the Lions had two men sent off but still won, 2-1. Larin and Barnes did the damage again, so United fans will not mind seeing that neither player is on the 2018 OCSC roster. Kofi Opare gave his team a lifeline in the 89th minute but D.C. couldn’t find an equalizer.
The teams split two lopsided games in 2016, with each team winning at home. United grabbed a 4-1 win at RFK Stadium and the Lions avenged that loss with a 4-2 win to close their tenure at Camping World Stadium.
The Black & Red won the first meeting back on April 3, 2015, with Luis Silva scoring on a 91st-minute free kick, breaking Orlando hearts, 1-0. On May 13 of that inaugural season, Orlando led 1-0 on Larin’s goal, but then bad things happened. Aurelien Collin sustained an injury and was replaced at center back by Tyler Turner. D.C. quickly used that mismatch to score twice and win, 2-1. Orlando finally got on the board in the series on June 14 that year with Kaká scoring off the rebound of his own missed penalty to provide the Lions’ 1-0 winning margin.
The slates are clean for last year’s two Eastern Conference cellar dwellers, but, if you’re looking for a trend, Orlando City is 3-1-0 at home in the series and has won three straight at home against D.C. The Lions are 1-0-2 in season-opening games.
Absences are the story here. D.C. United is without Head Coach Ben Olsen and star midfielder Luciano Acosta, who are both suspended. Olsen’s ban was handed down after the 2017 season for his response to Acosta’s red card in the season finale, which is why the player is sidelined. Taylor Kemp has also been dealing with a knock. Meanwhile, despite a complete rebuild in the off-season, City will be without several new faces and an old one. Sacha Kljestan is suspended for his part in a playoff altercation with Jozy Altidore. Dom Dwyer (quadriceps) is still a week or two away from returning and Jason Kreis said that Uri Rosell (match fitness), Dillon Powers (ankle), Josué Colmán (quad contusion) are also ruled out. Center back Lamine Sané (immigration paperwork) is available for selection but hasn’t been with the club very long. And midfielder Pierre Da Silva was suspended Friday night by MLS for three games for “offensive language” in a preseason match against Philadelphia.
Orlando City may choose more defensive-minded tactics and a grind-it-out mentality to try to survive this match with several key players missing. But honestly it’s difficult to know what to expect other than some growing pains with new players trying to learn each other’s tendencies. D.C. also has a lot of new pieces trying to fit together for the first time. This has the look of a low-scoring match, particularly since offense is often hard to come by early in the season.
Mandatory Match #Content
- Our Intelligence Report gives us more about United from Ben Bromley of SB Nation’s D.C. blog, Black and Red United.
- This week's PawedCast includes our key match-ups and predictions, plus our season preview with national soccer reporter Paul Tenorio.
- Guilherme Torres previews D.C. United’s speedy wingers against Orlando’s fullbacks.
Orlando City (4-4-2)
Goalkeeper: Joe Bendik.
Defenders: Mohamed El-Munir, Amro Tarek, Jonathan Spector,Scott Sutter.
Midfielders: PC, Yoshimar Yotun, Cam Lindley, Will Johnson.
Forwards: Chris Mueller, Justin Meram,
Bench: Earl Edwards, Jr., RJ Allen, Donny Toia, Lamine Sané, Richie Laryea, Tony Rocha, Stéfano Pinho,
DC United (4-1-4-1)
Goalkeeper: David Ousted.
Defenders: Oniel Fisher, Steve Birnbaum, Frederic Brillant, Nick DeLeon.
Defensive Midfielder: Junior Moreno.
Attacking Midfielders: Yamil Asad, Ulises Segura, Zoltan Stieber, Paul Arriola.
Forward: Darren Mattocks.
Bench: Steve Clark, Chris Durkin, Ian Harkes, Kofi Opare, Chris Odoi-Atsem, Bruno Miranda, Patrick Mullins.
Ref: Fotis Bazakos.
AR1: Corey Rockwell.
AR2: Peter Balciunas.
4TH: Marcos Deoliveira.
VAR: Geoff Gamble.
How to Watch
Match Time: 7:30 p.m. (ET).
Venue: Orlando City Stadium — Orlando, FL.
TV: WRDQ TV 27 (local only).
Radio: FM 96.9 The Game (English), AM La Nueva 990 (Spanish).
Streaming: MLSSoccer.com (my understanding is that this will be available until the new ESPN streaming MLS service is set up).
Match Thread Rules
This is your live thread for posting comments on the match. So use our comments section below to talk about the game in real time with other supporters. If you're new, welcome to our happy home! While you're here, please observe a few basic rules:
- Absolutely no links to illegal streams. They can get us in trouble, and no one wants that.
- Try not to be "that guy" who spews nothing but venom and hate for the team. It's ok to be critical, and, let's face it, sometimes even the best teams can be frustrating to watch, but being overly negative relentlessly can sap the enjoyment for others.
- Keep it somewhat clean and fair when criticizing players / officials. You never know who might be reading.
- Do unto others in the match thread, the way you would have others do unto you. We are a fun community and want to keep it this way. We have a moderator, but we'd rather let him enjoy the game instead of having to play babysitter.
Enjoy the match!