Before the preseason, I predicted what Orlando City’s starting XI would look like with the caveat that there will be more signings to come. Those new signings have come, plus there have been a few preseason games. Now it is time to reevaluate those predictions and update them.
Orlando City Head Coach James O’Connor has been using a 3-5-2 formation. It is expected that the formation will not be constant this season, but he has been consistent with it the past few weeks. Depending on the formation, there could be changes. Still, personnel-wise, a 3-5-2 will not differ too much from a 3-4-3 or 4-3-3. I would keep the 3-5-2, but with the signing of Nani, a 3-4-3 makes the most sense.
Brian Rowe is expected to be signed any day now, and the veteran has taken the majority of the preseason minutes. This leads me to believe that the coaching staff is going to roll with him come Week 1. He let in a howler against New York City FC on Saturday by getting chipped from long distance. The other three goalkeepers have a combined five MLS starts, though, so Rowe’s experience is huge.
I am making one change to the three-man back line. Initially, I had Lamine Sané, Carlos Ascues, and Shane O’Neill, but I will change Sané out for Alex De John. Either way, both players should see the field often this season, as well as Kamal Miller. Tomorrow’s friendly against New England could speak volumes about who O’Connor prefers, but the main thing this year needs to be consistency in the defense. There was way too much change in 2018, with almost a new back line every game. That will always be a recipe for disaster, as Orlando’s record-setting (in a bad way) defense proved.
This midfield is basically set now. Sacha Kljestan and Sebas Mendéz will definitely start in the middle together. This pairing has been excellent, and Kljestan finally looks like the player that Orlando wanted when it signed him. Ruan has the possibility of making Orlando City fans comfortable with letting Scott Sutter go, although I withhold judgment on this until Ruan proves his value in real games. Danilo Acosta is the weak link in this midfield, but that is not saying much as his potential is sky high.
There should be zero doubt in this attacking line. If the Lions go with a 3-4-3, or any three-man attacking front all season long, it will be Nani, Dom Dwyer, and Chris Mueller, barring players needing rest or similar circumstance.
That’s the way I see things shaping up at this point. Who do you think O’Connor will go with?