Welcome to your match thread for a Sunday evening match-up between Orlando City and D.C. United at Orlando City Stadium. It’s the first of two scheduled MLS matches between the clubs this season, with the Lions visiting Audi Field for the return leg on Wednesday, June 26.
The Lions faced United three times last year when you lump in a road U.S. Open Cup match, and a different coach was at the City helm for all three meetings. Additionally, Orlando finished the two MLS meetings with fewer than 11 men on the pitch, so it would be nice if the Lions can avoid picking up another dreaded red card against the Black and Red.
The Lions are 4-4-1 against D.C. in the all-time league series since the club joined MLS, and 4-4-2 in all competitions. Orlando is 3-1-1 at home against United and is unbeaten in the last four meetings in the City Beautiful (3-0-1). The last time United won a game in Orlando was in the first ever meeting back on April 3, 2015, when Luis Silva snapped a scoreless tie with a free kick in the 91st minute to lift D.C. to a 1-0 win at the Citrus Bowl. Donovan Ricketts got his hand to it but couldn’t push it off frame.
D.C. was 1-0-2 in three total meetings (two in league play) last season. The two teams met on opening day 2018 and the Lions posted a dramatic late 1-1 draw on Stefano Pinho’s 93rd-minute goal. Orlando went down to 10 men 41 minutes into the match when PC was sent off. The teams met in U.S. Open Cup action on June 20 at the Maryland SoccerPlex and again drew 1-1, but the Lions advanced to the quarterfinals thanks to a 4-2 penalty shootout win. Luciano Acosta put the hosts ahead but Justin Meram equalized on a rainy night and that was it for the scoring until the shootout. United won that game at Audi Field on Aug. 12 of last year by a 3-2 score and I’m pretty sure three more video reviews from that game just went their way in the time I was typing up this paragraph. Cristian Higuita was sent off after video review with 40 minutes remaining. And two other controversial reviews went D.C.’s way.
Orlando swept the two league meetings in 2017, the teams split two lopsided games in 2016 — with each team winning at home — and the Black and Red went 2-1-0 in the first three meetings back in 2015.
D.C. finished 2018 as one of the hottest teams in MLS and then picked right back up to start 2019. United’s record stands at 2-0-1, entering the weekend atop the Eastern Conference standings and tied for the league’s best goal differential (+7), while not yet having conceded this season.
The big match-up everyone wants to see is Nani vs. former Manchester United teammate Wayne Rooney and who could blame them? However, there may not be many opportunities for them to square off, as each will be heavily involved atop the formation on the offensive end.
You can probably expect Ben Olsen’s side to come out in a 4-2-3-1 as listed below in the “Projected Starters” section. There’s no need to make too many changes from the team that pounded Real Salt Lake into a thin paste two weeks ago, to the tune of 5-0. Two red cards didn’t help RSL in that match but it was already 2-0 before the first one was shown to Jefferson Savarino.
Orlando City may have to play similarly to the way it did last week in the 1-0 win at the New York Red Bulls — safety first. The defenders and midfielders in that game were cognizant of denying the ball in the defensive third and lumped a lot of balls forward, hoping to release the pressure and also win scoring chances off of secondary balls after playing it forward. D.C. attacking players are perhaps even more dangerous than New York’s, so that wouldn’t be a bad strategy.
However, D.C. has a better defense (so far) this season, starting with central midfielders Russell Canouse and Junior Moreno. Leo Jara provides quality fullback play that D.C. has been missing in recent years beside a solid center back duo of Frederic Brillant and Steve Birnbaum. Bill Hamid usually smothers anything that gets through all of that.
Orlando will have to lock down the midfield and keep D.C.’s attackers from finding Rooney, which may necessitate denying the ball to Acosta. The defense will need to keep Rooney well marked and watch for give-and-go play between the veteran striker and United’s talented midfielders.
“For sure it’s going to be a very tough game for us,” said Uri Rosell at training on Friday. “They are very good this year and I think that we’ve got to be focused that it’s going to be a difficult one for us.”
The Lions will be tasked with stopping the powerful D.C. attacking force without Alex De John (hamstring). Tesho Akindele (hamstring) and Will Johnson (concussion protocol) were both at training on Friday but the media portion ended while the team was still warming up. Both were listed as “out” on the MLS injury report as of Friday, but the report also listed Lamine Sané (calf) as questionable and he played last week and seemed to get through the game fine.
D.C. is relatively healthy, with former Lion Earl Edwards Jr. nursing a groin injury, with both Oniel Fisher (knee surgery) and Chris Odoi-Atsem (Hodgkin’s Lymphoma) also listed as out.
Mandatory Match #Content
- Our Intelligence Report tells us more about United from Ben Bromley of SB Nation’s D.C. blog, Black and Red United.
- This week's PawedCast includes our key match-ups and predictions, plus our exclusive interview with OCSC goalkeeper Brian Rowe.
- While not specifically about this match, Andrew Sharp dives into expected goals and what they can tell us about Orlando City in 2019.
Orlando City (3-5-2)
Goalkeeper: Brian Rowe.
Defenders: Robin Jansson, Lamine Sané, Shane O’Neill.
Wingbacks / Midfielders: Joao Moutinho, Uri Rosell, Sacha Kljestan, Carlos Ascues, Ruan.
Forwards: Nani, Dom Dwyer.
Bench: Adam Grinwis, Kamal Miller, Kyle Smith, Sebas Mendez, Chris Mueller, Santiago Patino, Benji Michel.
DC United (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Bill Hamid.
Defenders: Joseph Mora, Steve Birnbaum, Frederic Brillant, Leonardo Jara.
Defensive Midfielders: Russell Canouse, Junior Moreno.
Attacking Midfielders: Lucas Rodriguez, Luciano Acosta, Paul Arriola.
Forward: Wayne Rooney.
Bench: Chris Seitz, Jalen Robinson, Zoltán Stieber, Ulises Segura, Chris Durkin, Quincy Amarikwa, Chris McCann.
Ref: Armando Villarreal.
AR1: Jeffrey Greeson.
AR2: Andrew Bigelow.
4th: Christopher Penso.
VAR: Chico Grajeda.
AVAR: Kevin Klinger.
How to Watch
Match Time: 6:30 p.m. (ET).
Venue: Orlando City Stadium — Orlando, FL.
TV: FOX Sports 1, FOX Deportes.
Streaming: FOX Sports GO.
Radio: FM 96.9 The Game (English), La Nueva 990 (Spanish).
Twitter: For rapid reaction and live updates, follow along at @TheManeLand, as well as Orlando City's official Twitter feed (@OrlandoCitySC).
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Enjoy the match! Go City!