After a successful opening game in the MLS is Back Tournament, Orlando City SC nears its second and crucial match in Group A. The Lions will take on New York City FC tomorrow at 8 p.m., and a win would all but guarantee Orlando advances to the next round.
To prepare for the game, I spoke to Christian Smith, manager of Hudson River Blue, and he was kind enough to bring all of us up to speed on how the Pigeons are doing.
What were your overall impressions of NYCFC during the team’s first match of the MLS is Back Tournament?
Christian Smith: Nothing good. It marks the fourth straight game in all competitions where the team has suffered a 1-0 defeat. I guess there were some positives to take from it. But honestly, without points, it’s disheartening at best.
Since Ronny Deila took charge of the club, the team has yet to win any of its league games and has only won twice in six competitive matches. Is NYCFC’s form simply down to the team adjusting to its new coach or are you beginning to get concerned?
CS: I’m getting concerned. NYCFC on paper has one of the most stacked squads in all of MLS and has had little in the way of roster turnover since last season. The only players we lost in the lead-up to 2020 were some reserves and backups — every starter remains on the club. Mind you, this is the same club that finished first in the Eastern Conference last season. New coach or not, there is no excuse for performances like these.
What does NYCFC need to do to get Deila his first league win? What is going to be key for the team in this match?
CS: Players need to stop creating “promising chances” and deliver actual goals. And that starts with Deila’s ability to rally the troops and get them into a mindset where they feel they need to do that. Because if we get blanked or suffer another crushing defeat, I can no longer support Deila as our coach. With that said, the key to this match is this: play like your jobs depend on it. Because they very well might.
Are there any players who will not be available for selection due to injury or suspension? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?
CS: Alexandru Mitrita missed Friday’s game, but Deila said he should be available Tuesday against Orlando. Sebastien Ibeagha and Tony Rocha were both listed as questionable Friday, and Maxi Moralez will be unavailable due to a quad injury.
My expected 4-2-3-1 lineup is as follows: Sean Johnson; Ronald Matarrita, Maxime Chanot, Alexander Callens, Anton Tinnerholm; James Sands, Alexander Ring; Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, Valentin Castellanos, Alexandru Mitrita; Heber.
I’m gonna be optimistic for once and say that NYCFC wins 2-1 in a scrappy game that is decided midway through the second half. City is a wounded duck, but I still think it has the quality to take it to a Lions team that is still working itself out. Because even though Orlando City dispatched Inter Miami in dramatic fashion last week, the latter is still an expansion team.
Thanks again to Christian for the excellent information as always, and vamos Orlando!