Welcome to your match thread and preview for an opening day showdown between Orlando City and Real Salt Lake at Exploria Stadium. This is the first and only scheduled meeting between the two teams from opposing conferences.
It’s Oscar Pareja’s first competitive game in charge of the Lions and he’ll be a bit shorthanded. Nani has a suspension stemming from the 2019 season finale and striker Dom Dwyer has been ruled out due to a lower body injury and could miss another week before returning.
The Lions are 2-1-2 in five previous MLS meetings with RSL, including a 1-0-1 mark in the City Beautiful. Orlando City’s only loss in the series came in the most recent meeting, a 2-1 Real Salt Lake win in Utah last season on April 13, 2019. Nani scored Orlando’s only goal that day, but it came late in the match after Sam Johnson and Demir Kreilach had staked RSL to a 2-0 lead.
The last meeting in Orlando was a wild, 3-1 win for the Lions in which RSL missed multiple good scoring chances, hitting the woodwork and forcing Joe Bendik into some big saves. , Dwyer, Lamine Sané, and Yoshimar Yotún provided Orlando’s offense to offset Corey Baird’s early strike.
When the teams met in 2017 at Rio Tinto, Will Johnson provided all the offense against his old club in a 1-0 Orlando City victory. Johnson’s tally in the 17th minute was all Orlando City needed to take the first win of the series after two draws the previous two seasons.
In 2016, the teams played a memorable opening day match in which the Lions roared back with a frantic rally, as Cyle Larin and Adrian Winter pulled City level in a 2-2 draw at the Citrus Bowl. Joao Plata scored both RSL goals — one from the penalty spot — and RSL led 2-0 despite going down a man for 25 minutes, prior to Chris Penso evening things out by sending off Darwin Ceren.
Orlando drew 1-1 on the road in 2015 while down to 10 men after Kaká was sent off at the end of the first half. The captain opened the scoring. Sebastian Jaime found the equalizer in the 28th.
It’s difficult to provide much of an overview in a season opener, but here goes my attempt.
Although Orlando will be without its two biggest offensive weapons in Nani and Dwyer, the Lions have enough quality depth to compete in this match. Tesho Akindele will likely fill in for Dwyer up top, with Benji Michel on one wing and probably Chris Mueller on the other side, although Mauricio Pereyra could move up to the forward line for Pareja and fill Nani’s role of trying to provide for others. I suspect it will be Michel-Akindele-Mueller, but that won’t leave much scoring depth on the bench, with Santiago Patino and rookie Daryl Dike the primary remaining options.
Junior Urso and Pereyra will likely start in the midfield, with either Uri Rosell or Sebas Mendez.
Orlando City will look to stay organized in the back and build through fluid possession, keeping the ball quickly moving forward as much as possible. Ruan may appear to be an extra attacker when Orlando has the ball, leaving a bit of a three-in-the-back look. At least that’s what I expect from seeing all of two preseason matches.
Real Salt Lake lost some key offensive pieces from the 2019 squad but the Utah-based club has good depth and has just signed a terrific attacking player in Guiseppe Rossi, along with former Lions pariah Justin Meram.
RSL is a good defensive club, which allowed just 41 goals in 2019. That shouldn’t change although Zac MacMath will need to pick up his game to make up for the retirement of Nick Rimando.
It doesn’t appear that RSL will have Johnson for this game and Everton Luiz will miss the match after getting a red card in his team’s last playoff game of 2019. RSL Soapbox writer Lucas Muller said in this week’s Intelligence Report that Corey Baird, Luke Mulholland, and Kyle Beckerman may also be out with knocks.
Mandatory Match #Content
- Our Intelligence Report includes a bit of a scouting report on RSL from Lucas Muller of SBNation’s Real Salt Lake blog, RSL Soapbox.
- This week’s PawedCast includes our key match-ups and score predictions for tonight’s match, as well as a chat with Lucas from RSL Soapbox and our exclusive interview with Orlando City rookie midfielder Joey DeZart.
- Dave Rohe took a look at the three biggest questions surrounding Orlando City in today’s match.
Orlando City (4-4-2)
Goalkeeper: Pedro Gallese.
Defenders: Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, Ruan.
Midfielders: Sebas Mendez, Mauricio Pereyra, Junior Urso.
Forwards: Chris Mueller, Tesho Akindele, Benji Michel.
Bench: Brian Rowe, Kamal Miller, Rodrigo Schlegel, Joey DeZart, Andres Perea, Robinho, Santiago Patino.
Real Salt Lake (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Zac MacMath.
Defenders: Donny Toia, Nedum Onuoha,Justen Glad, Aaron Herrera.
Defensive Midfielders: Marcelo Silva, Demir Kreilach.
Attacking Midfielders: Justin Portillo, Albert Rusnak, Tate Schmitt.
Forward: Nick Besler.
Bench: Andrew Putna, Douglas Martinez, Pablo Ruiz, Justin Meram, Giuseppe Rossi, Maikel Chang, Corey Baird.
Ref: Rubiel Vazquez.
AR1: Andrew Bigelow.
AR2: Benjamin Hall-Volpenhein.
4th: Marcos DeOliveira.
VAR: Sorin Stoica.
AVAR: Kyle Longville.
How to Watch
Match Time: 6 p.m. ET.
Venue: Exploria Stadium — Orlando, FL.
TV: FOX 35 Plus (formerly My65) (local only).
Radio: 104.1 FM Real Radio (English), Accion 97.9 FM and 810 AM (Spanish).
Streaming: The match can be streamed on ESPN+ although it will most likely be blacked out locally.
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