The season opener is almost upon us. The long wait is over, and it is finally time to see what’s been cooking over the off-season and preseason with the Lions. Of course, any time that you have a new coach, new players, and a new system there are going to be unknowns. Let’s take a look at the three biggest questions Orlando City has entering opening day.
Where Are the Goals?
Dom Dwyer is out with the dreaded lower body injury, and Nani is serving a two-game suspension thanks to the MLS Disciplinary Committee. As such, the Lions will start the season without two of their most important players on offense. Not to worry, I’m sure there’s a plan. There’s a plan, right? Tell me there’s a plan.
As was discussed on The Mane Land PawedCast this week, we anticipate that Tesho Akindele will take on the main striker role for Dwyer, with Benji Michel and Chris Mueller playing on either side. It’s a young group up top against a good Real Salt Lake back line, so goals may be hard to come by. It’s important for Orlando to try and get on the scoreboard early, and even more important not to fall behind.
Who Starts at Fullback?
Orlando City’s defense improved greatly last year, and has the potential to take another step forward this year. Robin Jansson and Antônio Carlos will likely be the starting center back pairing, which will be important for them to start building chemistry. Ruan should start at right fullback, but there’s a question as to who the left fullback will be. Most assume that João Moutinho will get the nod, and with good reason. However, Oscar Pareja might opt to only have one fullback bombing up the side rather than two. If that is the case, expect to see Kamal Miller start. It really will boil down to how much attacking Pareja wants to do in the first match. Ruan and Moutinho do have good recovery speed if he decides to press them up the wings, but with a new center back pairing, he might not take that chance.
Is There a Purpose to Possession?
We’ve heard Pareja express that he does want to possess the ball, but to do so with a purpose. Kicking the ball sideways and backwards is sometimes necessary, but if a team is going to score it needs to go forward. I already mentioned the possibility of Ruan and Moutinho pressing forward, but it is mainly going to come down to how the midfield is able to connect the ball from the defense to the strikers. We saw what Mauricio Pereyra was able to do in his short time with the Lions last season, and I expect him to be better this go-around. Uri Rosell played the defensive midfield well last year and I expect that adding Júnior Urso will make this a potent midfield. The question remains whether they will be able to implement Pareja’s purpose-driven possession plan.
There you have it. Think I missed something? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below. Vamos Orlando!