There’s no time for Orlando City to dwell on a bitter defeat in Columbus. The Lions travel back to the comfortable confines of Orlando City Stadium to welcome David Villa and New York City FC for the first time in 2018. After losing both matches in the Bronx, OCSC will hope for better fortune in Central Florida. The story lines write themselves as both 2015 expansion clubs will also meet for the first time with their respective third head coaches in club history as James O’Connor and Domenec Torrent share the touchline for the first time.
Domenec Torrent took over at the end of June and has won all but one match at the helm. What has the new boss brought to the team?
Christian Smith: Domenec has brought a tactical edge that has optimized the team and their performances. Where he has truly shined is in his mid-game adjustments. Whenever things aren’t going the way they should be, he isn’t afraid to change up the formation and adjust the play style. Almost all of our goals since Dome came in have come in the second half.
Superstar David Villa has started just 10 matches this season but it hasn’t seemed to slow the team down. How has the team been so successful without their captain?
CS: Unlike previous seasons, Villa isn’t the only one scoring goals this time around. Winger Ismael Tajouri-Shradi has been an absolute revelation this season and has scored eight goals in 11 games, alleviating some of Villa’s responsibility to be the team’s sole scoring threat on the pitch. Maxi Moralez has also come into his own as it pertains to offensive output, and Jo Inge Berget has also begun to find his rhythm.
NYCFC is once again challenging for the Supporters’ Shield. How can New York’s blue team ensure it doesn’t finish second in the East for the third year in a row?
CS: They must learn to secure points on the road. Despite being 10-0-1 (W-L-D) at home, City has struggled immensely away from the Bronx, only managing a 2-4-3 record. Atlanta is within their reach; NYCFC is four points behind the Five Stripes with two games in hand. If they wish to catch them, they will have to find a way to win on the road.
What injuries/suspensions will keep players out this weekend and what is your projected lineup and predicted final score?
CS: David Villa, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, and Jo Inge Berget have all returned to training following recent injuries, but Torrent has said their availability on Thursday is completely dependent upon how fit they seem throughout the week. There are currently no suspensions to speak of, though defensive midfielder Alex Ring is one yellow card away from being given a one-game suspension.
GK: Sean Johnson, RB: Anton Tinnerholm, CB: Maxime Chanot, CB: Alex Callens, LB: Ben Sweat, CM: Alex Ring, CM: Ebenezer Ofori, CM: Maxi Moralez, RW: Jesus Medina, ST: David Villa, LW: Rodney Wallace.
Score: 2-0 NYCFC. Despite their struggles on the road, NYCFC are coming in off a week in which they won three straight games against formidable opponents and given they’ve had plenty of rest, I can’t see them dropping points to a struggling Orlando City side, especially when the latter is going through such a transitional period.
Thanks again to Christian for all his help this season.