For the second straight year, Orlando City is starting the season out winless. Last year, the Lions drew D.C. United 1-1 and then lost to Minnesota United and New York City FC. The story is similar this year, with the Lions tying NYCFC and Chicago and then losing to the Montreal Impact 3-1.
“I think these are the times when you can respond,” Chris Mueller said. “You can show a lot of character about who you are. The teams that can bounce back from starts like this can end up going deep in the playoffs. Right now, we need to look forward and build off the positives.”
Last year, Orlando followed the slow start with a six-game win streak. While the rest of 2018 is worth forgetting, Orlando needs to put together another string of positive performances. The next test is the New York Red Bulls, a team that Orlando has struggled to beat. The Lions are just 3-5-1 all-time against New York and just 1-4-0 on the road in the series.
“Obviously, Red Bulls have historically done really well,” Mueller said. “They high press, they’re really intense, we know that at home they’re going to come really fiery, really rapid. So, we want to manage the game well, especially the first 15 minutes, and try to get a good result.”
To get that good result could prove difficult. Despite the differences in quality, Orlando will be missing a few key players. Kamal Miller and Sebas Méndez will both miss the match because of international duty. Lamine Sané and Will Johnson are injured, and new signing Robin Jansson currently does not have his international paperwork completed. However, O’Connor is “hopeful” that it will be complete in time for the Saturday.
This will be a match that could stretch the Lions’ depth. Rookie Santiago Patino made his MLS debut last week and could feature again. Uri Rosell and Cristian Higuita will likely play, as well.
“This will present an opportunity for some of the other players,” James O’Connor said. “I think for us, we’re excited. It’s a challenge to go to New York, but we feel the players are in a good spot.”
Rosell has made the 18 each game this season but has been an unused substitute. With Johnson and Méndez both out, the Spaniard will likely get his first start of the season. He featured in 22 games last year and was one of the better players on the team. Rosell had the highest passing percentage, third most tackles per game, and fifth most interceptions per game. He was an essential part of the midfield but knows that this year’s midfielders need to be even better and continue to put in work.
“I think we have pretty good midfielders this year,” Rosell said. “I think what [New York] does best is pressing so we’ve got to be mindful of that and play the best that we can because it’s going to be a very tough battle.”
O’Connor is positive going into New York. He said that he was “encouraged” by his team’s performances in the first two games, even though last week was a disappointment. The team has been working hard this week in training to counter that result, and O’Connor is confident that Orlando can “get a good positive reaction” and result on Saturday.