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Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. New York City FC

What can we expect to see from NYCFC in the Pigeons’ first date with the Lions following a certain playoff game?

MLS: New York City FC at Orlando City SC Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Another week brings us another Orlando City game, and that means it’s time to get an idea of this week’s opponent from someone who knows them better than we do.

Week 4 sees New York City FC visit Exploria Stadium to play the Lions for the first time following that home playoff game last year. A date with NYCFC meant that I spoke with Christian Smith, managing editor of SBNation’s Hudson River Blue, and all-around good dude. As usual, Christian gave us a great look at the most recent edition of NYCFC.

Thiago Andrade and Alfredo Morales were two notable incoming transfers for NYCFC. What do you expect to see from them this year?

Christian Smith: I expect Alfredo to line up at the No. 6 position, especially when in a 3-back formation. He just earned his first MLS start last weekend against Philly and I really like what he brought to the role. He has an energy about him that I really like and his football IQ seems to be very sound. What he lacks in flashiness he seems to more than make up for in efficiency.

As far as Thiago is concerned, we really don’t know because he’s yet to join the team. But if his highlights and scouting reports are to be considered, I expect him to line up as an inside forward on the left wing where he can cut onto his dominant right foot and create offense.

Who were the big departures from last year’s team? How have they been replaced?

CS: The biggest ones for sure were midfielder Alex Ring and left back Ronald Matarrita who were traded to Austin FC and FC Cincinnati, respectively. Replacing Ring was a tall task as he’s been a pivotal part of City’s midfield since his arrival in 2017. But so far, the team has expressed an interest in allowing Homegrown James Sands to become his successor, with Nicolas Acevedo and the aforementioned Morales to be his understudies.

Replacing Mata has been easy, as last year’s backup Gudi Thorarinsson has been promoted into a starting role while the club brought over Matle Amundsen and Chris Gloster as cover. Gudi isn’t as pacey or flashy as Matarrita was, but he more than makes up for it with his fundamentals and ability on set pieces.

NYCFC looked pretty damn good in a 2-0 win over Philadelphia last weekend. What were you most impressed by in the victory?

CS: The fact that City worked for an entire 90 minutes without relenting. The fact that their production dropped after the first 25 minutes proved costly in our season opener against D.C. United. The team responded well against Cincinnati, but let’s face it — that team is a glorified punching bag. Against a heavy favorite like Philly, the team continued to press and cause issues for the Union’s defense. Even before the red card early in the first half, NYCFC seemed to be more than up to the task and were smothering the Union in terms of creating chances and possessing the ball.

Are there any injuries or suspensions that will keep players unavailable for selection? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?

CS: Maxime Chanot was a late scratch due to a leg injury last week. It’s not currently known whether or not he’ll be ready for Saturday. Other than that, Gedion Zelalem still seems to be mending a hamstring injury and Tony Rocha is still out according to the last injury report we saw. Thiago is also still awaiting his visa.

Assuming Chanot can’t go, here’s my predicted lineup:

Formation: 3-5-2

Sean Johnson; Sebastien Ibeagha, James Sands, Alex Callens; Keaton Parks, Alfredo Morales, Anton Tinnerholm, Gudi Thorarinsson, Maxi Moralez; Jesus Medina, Taty Castellanos.

While I think NYCFC has definitely stepped up its game the past two weeks, I do think this game defaults to chaos and both teams take a share of the spoils. A 2-2 draw is what I’d predict.

Big thank you again to Christian for the great insight into the Pigeons. Vamos Orlando!