Orlando City will look to keep its unbeaten streak to start the 2021 season going, but things won’t be easy, as the Lions head out on the road to play a team they’ve only beaten once away from home. D.C. United has a five-match unbeaten streak going in all competitions against Orlando dating back to 2018, and the Black & Red are also a tough out at Audi Field, going 2-0-0 so far this season at their home grounds.
There are no easy road matches in MLS, so despite D.C. having played Thursday night and having a plethora of injuries, this is not a match to chalk into the win column ahead of the game being played by any means.
To get up to speed on a D.C. team that Orlando hasn’t played since 2019, we reached out to Ben Bromley from Black and Red United and he was kind enough to give us a quick update on what’s going on with the MLS team based in the nation’s capital.
D.C. brought in 23-year-old Nigel Robertha a couple months ago in a Targeted Allocation Money signing. What do you expect to get from him?
Ben Bromley: Unfortunately, Robertha hasn’t seen much of the field so far; he picked up a knock and has only seen limited minutes. The team needs improved play out of their center forwards, whether it be Robertha, Ola Kamara, or Erick Sorga; last night, they went without a traditional No. 9, running out Edison Flores and Adrien Perez as the attacking front. He’s unlikely to play this weekend, but he’ll need to be a key contributor down the road.
A big storyline last year was the departure of longtime head coach Ben Olsen, with Hernan Losada being brought in as his replacement. How has the team’s style of play changed under the new head man?
BB: The style of play has changed completely. Whereas Ben Olsen preferred a a back four, Hernan Losada has gone with three center backs. Where Ben Olsen was likely to prefer a defensive battle, Hernan Losada wants to press high up the field and win back the ball. Losada doesn’t particularly care about possession in and of itself, he’s concentrated on other metrics. The injury situation has made it shaky going so far, but there are plenty of signs that the team will be different and in the mold of Losada.
After an impressive opening day victory over NYCFC, DCU suffered a few tough losses on the road. However, the team is absolutely decimated by injuries at the moment. How much do you think the absences played a part in those losses?
BB: Oh, for sure it is a huge deal. The players currently out injured for D.C. United could make a pretty good starting 11 in MLS all by themselves. The situation is slowly getting better, with Paul Arriola now back in the lineup, Ola Kamara getting some minutes, and other players getting back towards getting healthy. We won’t really know who this team is until the summer, and getting all these players back will be a big part of it.
What injuries or suspensions will keep players unavailable for selection? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?
BB: All right, here we go: for D.C. United, they will be missing Steven Birnbaum, Bill Hamid, Erik Sorga, Yordy Reyna, Chris Odoi-Atsem, Jacob Greene, Nigel Robertha, Russell Canouse, and Donovan Pines, with Kevin Paredes, Griffin Yow, and Joseph Mora as questionable.
My predicted starting lineup will be Jon Kempin in goal, a back three of Tony Alfaro, Frederic Brillant, and Brendan Hines-Ike, Andy Najar and Julian Gressel as wingbacks, a midfield of Junior Moreno, Moses Nyeman, and Felipe, and attackers of Edison Flores and Paul Arriola.
I’ll go with a 1-1 draw as my prediction.
Big thanks to Ben for catching us up with what’s going on with D.C. United. Vamos Orlando!