While Orlando City didn’t have a match over the weekend due to some positive COVID-19 tests among the Columbus Crew staff, the boys will be back in action tomorrow night. New York City FC is coming to town in a match-up of the fourth and fifth placed teams in the Eastern Conference.
NYCFC is currently fifth in the East with 26 points. How has the season gone for the team this year?
Christian Smith: I think most fans will say that they’re disappointed with the results thus far. NYCFC were the best team in the East last year. And this season, they’re running at the middle of the pack. Granted, it’s been quite the abnormal 2020. And City being forced to hire a new coach definitely played a factor. Still, with the talent that this team has — plus the lack of any real roster turnover — NYCFC have definitely underperformed to this point.
One of the more surprising pieces of recent news came when it was announced that Alexandru Mitrita will be going on loan to Al-Ahli for the remainder of the season. Can you explain that situation for us? What happened there?
CS: From everything the club has told us, it has to do with personal reasons — specifically Mitrita’s wife’s pregnancy. I’m not sure if that’s all that factored into it, but that’s what we’ve been told. What confuses me is that Mitri will be on loan in Saudi Arabia until the end of the 2021 season. That’s a pretty long-term thing. So odds are, he won’t be coming back.
How does NYCFC like to play? What can Orlando fans expect to see out of them tomorrow?
CS: City definitely like to control the game by possessing the ball. Expect the team to build from the back. But don’t sleep on them, either. If given the opportunity, the club isn’t opposed to bombing the ball up the pitch to launch a counterattack.
Are there any injuries, suspensions, or call-ups that will keep players unavailable for selection? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?
CS: Maxi Moralez is out with a calf injury. Our primary striker Heber is out for the season with an ACL injury that he sustained a few weeks ago. Other than them, two depth pieces — Gedion Zelalem and Homegrown Tayvon Gray — will likely be missing.
Lineup would be GK: Sean Johnson RB: Anton Tinnerholm, RCB: Maxime Chanot, LCB: Alex Callens, LB: Ronald Matarrita, RDM: James Sands, LDM: Keaton Parks, RW: Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, CAM: Alex Ring, LW: Jesus Medina, ST: Taty Castellanos.
As far as score is concerned, I say a 1-1 draw.
As always, thank you to Christian for the update on NYCFC.