After a considerable layoff, another Orlando City MLS game is upon us. The Lions will travel to our nation’s capital for their second match of the season against D.C. United. Orlando will be hoping to continue its run of good form as it takes a three-match winning streak across all competitions into Wednesday’s game.
I spoke to Ben Bromley from Black and Red United and he was kind enough to catch me up on how D.C. has done since the two teams last met in late March.
D.C. has had a good first part of the season and is only four points off the top of the Eastern Conference. The team has had a dip in form recently though, and is winless in its last five games. What do you think is the main reason behind those struggles?
Ben Bromley: I think the main reason behind the struggles is the inconsistent play in central midfield. In the run-in last year, Junior Moreno and Russell Canouse were among the best central midfielders in MLS; they started off that way in March, but between injuries and absences they haven’t been able to replicate it since. Luciano Acosta has been sometimes good, sometimes frustrating, and sometimes great, but hasn’t been the same as he was at the end of last year. If the central midfield comes back to the level they had at the end of last year, they can be among the best teams in MLS.
When we last spoke you identified Junior Moreno as being a key cog in the team’s early success, has that continued to be the case?
BB: He is very much a key cog, and at his best he is one of the best midfielders in MLS. Like I said above, after March, D.C. United’s midfielders have been struggling through injuries, absences, and more. Was his end of 2018 performance his natural ceiling? I hope so. Have we seen it in 2019? It has been a struggle since March.
Whether it’s been positively or negatively, are there any players who have surprised you this year? Who has performed differently than you thought they would?
BB: Luciano Acosta is the player who should have had the most effect on this team throughout the year. He was a fringe MVP candidate and he and Wayne Rooney broke out. It was that partnership that led him to be a candidate for a $10 million transfer to PSG this off-season, but it didn’t work out for a number of reasons. If he can get back to his 2018 form, he will be the one player that affects this team more than the central midfield, more than the wingers, more than Wayne Rooney. With him at his best, this team is a great team.
Are there any injuries, suspensions, or call-ups that will keep players unavailable for selection on Wednesday? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?
BB: Paul Arriola and Junior Moreno are both on international duty for this game, and on Filibuster this week we opined that the Gold Cup is bad because we want Paul Arriola back. I think the starting lineup will be: Hamid; Jara, Brillant, Birnbaum, Mora; Canouse, Durkin; Segura, Acosta, Rodriguez; Rooney. I really want Griffin Yow to get significant minutes, since he is the player most like Paul Arriola on the bench, but it does not seem like he is currently on Head Coach Ben Olsen’s starting list. I am hoping a 2-1 win for United, but given their past play, I am not confident.
As always, thanks to Ben for some great insight into D.C. United.