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Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. New York City FC

Can the Lions get all three points on their second bite at the (big) apple?

MLS: New York City FC at Orlando City SC Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Purple Friday once again, and that means I’m back to give you everything you need to know about Orlando City’s next opponents.

This week sees the Lions take on a familiar foe in New York City FC, the team that Orlando opened the season against way back in the beginning of March. Saturday will see OCSC travel up to New York to take on the Pigeons in the shoe box masquerading as a soccer field that is Yankee Stadium. As such, I had a chat with Christian Smith of SB Nation’s Hudson River Blue and he gave me the lowdown on how NYCFC has fared since its Week 1 meeting with Orlando.

NYCFC got its first win of the season against the top dogs in the East, D.C. United. What came together for the Pigeons in Sunday’s game that had been missing before?

Christian Smith: I’d have to say that the team staying compact, committing to the high press, and utilizing a three-back formation where James Sands’ defensive brilliance can really shine was the key to collecting all three points against D.C. The team moved the ball with purpose and won every significant battle there was to be won in the midfield. Also, Heber’s contributions in his first NYCFC start cannot be understated. It was just a complete performance, something we haven’t seen yet this season.

It’s far enough into the season that most teams have developed a discernible identity and playing style that perhaps wasn’t on display as much back when these teams met the first week of the season. What have you seen from NYCFC in terms of identity and playing style, what’s the team’s bread and butter?

CS: To be completely honest, I feel NYCFC is still finding their identity to a certain extent as I believe we still haven’t seen our best XI just yet. But if I had to choose one now, I’d say it’s the 3-5-2 with both forwards kind of drifting a bit wide to exploit the channels. This allows fullbacks Ronald Matarrita and Anton Tinnerholm to really shine as they are both quite potent on the offensive side of the ball. As I stated earlier, I think this is a high-pressing team that is at its best when it attacks in numbers and holds possession.

When we last spoke you identified Ismael Tajouri-Shradi and Alexandru Mitrita as two players that might help pick up some of the slack created by David Villa’s departure. You’ve proven yourself a prophet as the pair lead the team with two goals scored apiece and an assist for each of them to boot. Are there any other players who have really impressed you so far?

CS: James. F’n. Sands. I honestly didn’t even expect him to be a consistent starter come this season, but the 18-year-old has put in such great work and has been arguably NYCFC’s best player this season. He has an impeccable defensive awareness, can distribute the ball from the back, and plays as if he’s been playing top-flight football for years. I fully expect him to be in Europe within the next two to three years.

Are there any suspensions or injuries that will keep players unavailable for selection on Saturday and what is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?

CS: Ismael Tajouri-Shradi received an ankle injury in training before the D.C. match-up and Taty Castellanos is currently listed as questionable due to sustaining a concussion against Minnesota last week. We have a game against Chicago on Wednesday, so we’ll see if we make the team sheet then and if any other players sustain injuries. Otherwise, the team should have a clean bill of health (Castellanos played against Chicago, and scored the game’s only goal. No projected lineup or score prediction provided.)


As always, a big thank you to Christian for answering those questions about the Pigeons.