After a furiously active off-season that involved scrapping Orlando City’s 2017 identity and rebuilding it from the ground up, the Lions get their first shot at an opponent in a live match.
The pressure is on for everyone involved for OCSC. Jason Kreis has to prove he can get all of these new faces on the same page as quickly as possible. The players have to prove that they were worth all of the hype. Everyone wants a fast start to the new year.
This weekend’s visitors to Orlando City Stadium, D.C. United, has quite a few new faces of its own, so we asked Ben Bromley, one of the managing editors of SB Nation’s own Black and Red United to give us the lowdown on Ben Olsen’s reinvented roster.
D.C. has quietly had an active off-season. What were the major additions and subtractions this winter and how do you see those changes affecting the team in 2018?
Ben Bromley: The major additions are in all four areas of the team, because of how bad the team was last year, it needed a ton of help. Starting in the back, David Ousted was brought in to challenge Steve Clark to replace Bill Hamid. Ousted seems to have the advantage at this point, but no one can truly replace Hamid. Moving forward, the team basically swapped out Bobby Boswell and swapped in Frederic Brillant to partner with Steve Birnbaum. Birnbaum’s problems last year came when he was asked to lead the defense, so hopefully Brillant can lead and Birnbaum can use his size and physicality to clear everything.
In the midfield, D.C. United now has four good attacking midfielders likely playing for three spots, with Yamil Asad, Paul Arriola, Luciano Acosta, and Zoltan Stieber all looking for playing time. The team didn’t spend as much on a striker as fans had hoped, but Darren Mattocks will likely start on opening day, having scored a bunch in preseason.
With Luciano Acosta suspended on Saturday after being ejected in the team’s 2017 finale, how do you expect Ben Olsen to replace what he brings to the pitch this weekend?
Ben Bromley: As I mentioned above, D.C. United has four attacking midfielders competing for three spots, so this week it will be pretty easy. Yamil Asad and Paul Arriola will man the wings, and Zoltan Stieber will slide into the middle. Stieber has been the team’s best free kick taker so far this preseason, so having him on the field will be good for the team. He is a bit more direct than Acosta, but still has the creative flair.
What kind of tactics can we expect from the Black and Red this weekend against Orlando City, and what do you view as the game’s key match-up?
Ben Bromley: D.C. United added a lot of speed this off-season, so I expect them to come out in a 4-2-3-1 that uses its speed to press and hit hard on the counter. I think the key match-up is the Orlando wingers against D.C. United’s fullbacks, as Nick DeLeon is a converted midfielder and the likely starter on the left, Oniel Fisher, has only just joined the team after having been a backup with the Seattle Sounders.
What injuries and suspensions are D.C. dealing with and what is your projected starting XI and predicted final score?
Ben Bromley: Amazingly, D.C. United is light on injuries right now. The only typical starter that is truly injured is left back Taylor Kemp, and defensive midfielder Russell Canouse is coming back from injury, but has been training all week. I think the lineup will be David Ousted; Nick DeLeon, Steve Birnbaum, Frederic Brillant, Oniel Fisher; Junior Moreno, Ulises Segura; Paul Arriola, Zoltan Stieber, Yamil Asad; Darren Mattocks
Orlando City also had a good off-season, so I think a 1-1 draw is in the cards.
Thanks again to Ben for taking the time to answer some questions about Saturday’s away side.