Welcome to your match thread for today's match-up between Orlando City (5-2-1, 16 points) and Real Salt Lake (3-4-1, 10 points) at Orlando City Stadium. It’s the only meeting of the season between these two teams from opposite conferences.
This is already Orlando’s fifth game against Western Conference opponents — and third in a row — having gone 3-1-0 in the first four. The Lions are coming off of consecutive wins over the Colorado Rapids (away) and the San Jose Earthquakes (at home). A win over RSL would push the Lions to their sixth consecutive and a new club record since joining MLS. City is 3-1-1 at home and RSL is 0-3-1 on the road so far in 2018.
Here’s what you need to know ahead of the match.
The Lions are 1-0-2 against RSL in the series since the club joined MLS. Will Johnson provided all the offense last year against his old club in a 1-0 Orlando City victory. Johnson’s tally in the 17th minute was all Orlando City needed to take the first win of the series after two draws the previous two seasons.
In 2016, you’ll recall the Lions roared back with a frantic rally on opening day, with Cyle Larin and Adrian Winter pulling City level in a 2-2 draw at the Citrus Bowl. Joao Plata scored both RSL goals — one from the penalty spot — and RSL led 2-0 despite going down a man for 25 minutes, prior to Chris Penso evening things out by sending off Darwin Ceren.
Orlando drew 1-1 on the road in 2015 while down to 10 men after Kaká was sent off at the end of the first half. The captain opened the scoring. Sebastian Jaime found the equalizer in the 28th.
Orlando City’s five-game winning streak grabs the headlines but the Lions have fallen behind in three of those matches. The team has enjoyed some good spells but still hasn’t put a full dominant 90-minute stretch together. That’s not too surprising considering the league’s parity and the pieces still trying to mesh in perfect harmony, but it has made for some nervy finishes to games in the season’s first two months.
This is the part of the season where the Lions have started to fall apart in years past, particularly in 2017, so it’s vital for Orlando to start May off with some points. To get those points, the Lions will have to contend with Joao Plata, Albert Rusnak, Jefferson Savarino, and others. Real Salt Lake has a good group of attacking players but hasn’t found much consistency in the early part of the season.
“They’ve got good, tricky players. They never stop running,” Will Johnson said of RSL before Friday’s training session. “I think Plata’s obviously a very, very good player. He’ll probably play tilted left, so that’s a fun match-up for me. They’ve got nothing to lose. They’re young. They’re learning. They’ve got a good team. They played very, very well in Vancouver. They’re just waiting for that breakout game, so the biggest challenge for us defensively is to make sure that breakout game doesn’t come this weekend.”
Like Orlando, RSL has dealt with some absences at the start of the campaign, but the club has taken care of business for the most part at Rio Tinto and that has enabled it to enter this weekend above the playoff line in the Western Conference. Real could get an important piece back for this game with Luke Mulholland playing 90 minutes in a rehab stint with the USL’s Real Monarchs on Monday.
The Lions will try to take advantage of a young RSL defense but just getting in behind isn’t enough. Real Salt Lake boasts one of the league’s most heralded goalkeepers in Nick Rimando. To beat Rimando, the lads in purple will have to be more clinical than ever — something the club has struggled with at times this season.
Orlando City will still be missing defenders Scott Sutter (knee) and Jonathan Spector (concussion). Jason Kreis said this week that Sutter should be back to full training soon. With Spector it’s just a matter of waiting for the symptoms to subside and to pass concussion protocol, which is frustratingly uncertain. Amro Tarek (broken nose) will play with a protective mask.
Real Salt Lake will likely be without Tony Beltran (knee), Jordan Allen (knee), David Horst (knee), and Alex Horwath (achilles), while Taylor Peay (knee), Shawn Barry (hamstring), Demar Phillips (ankle), Marcelo Silva (groin), and Luis Silva (ankle) are questionable. Aaron Herrera (hamstring), Mulholland (hamstring) are probable.
Mandatory Match #Content
- Our Intelligence Report provides more info about this week’s visitors from editor Lucas Muller of SB Nation’s RSL blog, RSL Soapbox.
- This week's PawedCast includes our key match-ups and predictions, as well as our exclusive interview with Kyle Martino.
- Alek Pierce discussed why Orlando City can’t afford to look past RSL toward a match-up with Atlanta next week.
Orlando City (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Joe Bendik.
Defenders: Mohamed El-Munir, Chris Schuler, Lamine Sané, Will Johnson.
Defensive Midfielders: Yoshimar Yotún, Cristian Higuita.
Attacking Midfielders: Justin Meram, Sacha Kljestan, Chris Mueller.
Forward: Dom Dwyer.
Bench: Earl Edwards Jr., Donny Toia, RJ Allen, Oriol Rosell, Richie Laryea, PC, Stefano Pinho.
Real Salt Lake (4-3-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Nick Rimando.
Defenders: Pablo Ruiz, Nick Besler, Justen Glad, Brooks Lennon.
Midfielders: Damir Kreilach, Albert Rusnak, Kyle Beckerman.
Forwards: Joao Plata, Corey Baird, Jefferson Savarino.
Bench: Connor Sparrow, Adam Henley, Sebastián Saucedo, Sunny, Aaron Herrera, Luis Silva, Ricky Lopez-Espin.
Ref: Robert Sibiga.
AR1: Jason White.
AR2: Eric Weisbrod.
4th: Marcos DeOliveira.
VAR: Caleb Mendez.
How to Watch
Match Time: 5 p.m. ET.
Venue: Orlando City Stadium — Orlando, FL.
TV: WRDQ TV27.
Radio: FM 96.9 The Game (English), La Nueva 990 (Spanish).
Streaming: ESPN+, YouTube TV.
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