It’s a much happier Friday than last week as Orlando City finally broke its four-game losing streak midweek. The question is whether or not Orlando can now turn things all the way around and rip off some wins when it really needs them.
The first challenge up will be D.C. United, which currently sits one point above Orlando but is all the way up in third place due to tiebreakers. With the Black and Red coming to town I spoke to Ben Bromley, one of the managing editors over at SBNation’s Black and Red United. As always, my fellow Ben helped give us some excellent insight into D.C. United.
Last time we spoke back in May, we talked about Nigel Robertha, who had seen limited time on the field at that point after picking up an injury. How have the last few months been for him?
Ben Bromley: Nigel Robertha is still a sub these days, as he spent some time injured and Ola Kamara is now the Golden Boot leader in MLS. But he is still an important player for the team: after Kamara goes for about 70 minutes, Hernan Losada brings in the fresh legs of Robertha, and he will run down and harass your defense for the rest of the game. Against Orlando, he will likely get the start, given that this is the third game in a week; he plays a similar game to Kamara, as a target man looking for service to convert into goals, but he can also make runs. Against FC Cincinnati, their whole back line just stopped as they thought he was offside, but Robertha didn’t stop and he picked up a goal through pure effort.
D.C. and Orlando are in the same boat as everyone in the playoff places that isn’t Nashville or New England: just a few points from being out of the playoffs. Do you think D.C. has what it takes to finish strong and make the playoffs?
BB: I think D.C. United definitely has what it takes to make the playoffs: they have a great goalkeeper, a solid defense, and more of their games are at home than on the road. United is unbeaten in four straight at home, and their overall record at Audi Field is 10 wins, 3 losses, and no draws. They do have to play the top of the east — New England and Nashville — during the stretch into the end of the season, but they have both of those games at home.
Who has emerged as the most important player for this team? Who should Orlando be most focused on stopping?
BB: Andy Najar is probably the most important player on the team right now, and that is because he plays a position that is unique in all of MLS. He is extremely effective as the right centerback in a back three, but he has complete license to go forward whenever he wants and to go as far forward as he wants. He will interplay with the midfielders and the wingbacks, often ending up further up the field than Russell Canouse and Junior Moreno, taking space in the attacking midfield and allowing Julian Gressel to stay wide and put in pinpoint crosses. He is playing in a way that has been unseen in MLS before now, and he’s excelling both in the attack and in defense.
Are there any injuries, suspensions, or call-ups that will keep players unavailable for selection? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?
BB: I think that the lineup is going to be Bill Hamid; Donovan Pines, Steve Birnbaum, Jose Alfaro; Kevin Paredes, Russell Canouse, Junior Moreno, Julian Gressel; Drew Skundrich, Nigel Robetha, Paul Arriola. I’ll go with 2-1 to D.C. United on the road.
Big thanks to Ben for the information on D.C. United. Vamos Orlando!