Happy game day, Lions fans! It seems like an eternity, but Orlando City is finally back in action tonight. Orlando takes on Inter Miami FC for the first time.
The big question heading into the match is who will be on the field for the Lions? The team could look vastly different from the 2-1 loss to Colorado before the coronavirus outbreak halted the MLS season.
In that match, Oscar Pareja sent out his team in a 3-5-2. Dom Dwyer, Ruan, Nani, Mauricio Pereyra, and Chris Mueller were all absent from the starting XI. Uri Rosell was not in the 18 for either of the first two matches. Pedro Gallese, Antonio Carlos, Júnior Urso, Robin Jansson, and Sebas Méndez played all 180 minutes in the first two matches, while Tesho Akindele rested for just four minutes. Additionally, second-year Homegrown forward Benji Michel started in both of the first two matches.
Starting from the back and moving forward, here is who will likely be in the starting XI tonight.
Orlando played in a 4-2-3-1 and a 3-5-2 in its first two matches, respectively. With Nani, Dwyer, and Pereyra in the XI, a 4-2-3-1 is the better option. Pareja could also play in a 4-3-3, using the wings more and playing more attacking, with only one of the defensive midfielders holding in the middle of the field.
There is little competition here. Brian Rowe will be an excellent backup, as Gallese is Orlando’s first-choice keeper.
João Moutinho and Ruan are two players that will profoundly impact Orlando’s success or failure in the MLS is Back Tournament. Moutinho will take up the left back spot, while Ruan fills in on the right. Watch for both of them to get forward as they have done since coming to Orlando. However, they may not get forward as often as they typically do. It’s unlikely any players in the league are close to their optimal fitness level, which will influence the games.
As mentioned above, Jansson and Carlos have played every minute in Orlando’s first two matches. Don’t expect that to change tonight as the two slot into the center back positions.
Pareja has a surplus of options in the midfield. The one player who is as close to a guarantee to start as it gets is Pereyra. The playmaker will take the attacking midfield role and be the creative option for Orlando’s attack.
Rosell is a good holding midfielder, but seeing as he was not in the 18 in the first two matches, he likely will not get a start tonight. Instead, look for Mendez and Urso. Both were key players in the Lions’ first two games and could prove to be crucial tonight. The downfall of playing both of them is that they are both more defensive-minded players. Both Mendez and Urso can get forward if required but operate better as defensive midfielders.
David Loera could be an exciting alternative. He did not make the 18 in the first two matches, but he’s a creative player. Rookie Joey DeZart is another option, but he is more defensive-minded as well.
Dwyer will play up top with Nani on one of the wings. Orlando’s two biggest name players will both start and be catalysts for any attack. Pareja has options for the other wing, but it will likely come down to Akindele or Mueller. The age-old Orlando City debate is what role best suits Mueller? He is an Energizer bunny off the bench late in matches, but some believe he’s too talented not to be a starter. I think Akindele gets the nod, and Cash will come off the bench.