Tonight, Orlando City faces Santos Laguna in the Leagues Cup, taking on the six-time Liga MX champions as the Lions start their quest to claim a piece of sliverware as an MLS club.
Ahead of this one I spoke to Eugene Rupinski, one of the writers at SBNation’s FMF State of Mind, and he gave some excellent insight with regards to what we should expect from Santos. Our own Michael Citro also answered some of his questions about Orlando City which you can find here, so make sure you check those out over at their place, too.
The Leagues Cup is a slightly curious competition for both teams, since it’s only been played once back in 2019 and falls smack in the middle of the Liga MX and MLS seasons. With that being said, its an opportunity for silverware, so how serious do you think Santos is taking the Cup?
Eugene Rupinski: I think teams are always going to want to compete and win, especially when you throw in the rivalry Liga MX and MLS have. That said, this is something only slightly more than a friendly and I don’t think they’ll be pulling out all of the stops for it. Santos is dealing with some injuries and are in the midst of a stretch where they will be playing five games in 14 days. While I don’t think they’re going to roll over for Orlando, I’m not sure they’re going to go full bore either.
What sort of style should we expect to see from Santos? What is the team’s preferred method of play?
ER: Santos plays a high press (think New York Red Bulls under Jesse Marsch or the Philadelphia Union under Jim Curtin), forcing players to make mistakes and capitalizing on them. Although there have been issues with being clinical in front of goal, the team is defensively solid and thrives on set pieces.
Give me some names to watch out for on Thursday. Who should Orlando City fans keep an eye on?
ER: Santos has a star in goalkeeper Carlos Acevedo. Acevedo took the starting job in 2020 after several spot starts seasons prior, where he excelled. At just 25, he makes impossible saves look routine and is just a calming presence in net. Other players to watch are mostly in the middle of the pitch. Center back Matheus Dória covers a lot of ground and makes smart decisions on the pitch. Fernando Gorriarán is a workhorse in midfield and was recently called up to the Uruguay national team for the Copa América tournament, and free-kick specialist Diego Valdés are also players that have been critical to Santos’ success.
Are there any injuries, suspensions, or call-ups that will keep players unavailable for selection? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?
ER: Winger Brian Lozano is coming back from a broken leg suffered at the beginning of 2020. He made a sub appearance in Santos’ first match but hasn’t played since. Omar Campos suffered a sprain against Tigres and will be out for two weeks, and forward Eduardo “Mudo” Aguirre has been with the Mexican National Team that won a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics, so he’s most likely not going to play. Santiago Muñoz is also most likely not going to play, as there is some ongoing drama around a potential move to Europe. That said, I think the biggest thing that will keep players out is the risk of match fatigue. That makes everything about this match hard to predict.
Under normal circumstances I’d expect Santos’ starting lineup would be Acevedo in goal, David Andrade, Matheus Dória, Félix Torres, and Carlos Orrantia left to right on the back four, with Roni Prieto, Fernando Gorriarán, and Diego Valdés the central midfield triangle and Juan Ferney Otero and Jordan Carrillo on the left and right wings respectively with Alberto Ocejo at forward. That said, I would expect some rotation and bench players like Andrés “Pikiña” Ibargüen, Hugo Rodríguez, and Jesús Isijara as well as new arrival Alessandro Da Cruz to get some playing time.
2-1 Orlando. I hate to say it but I think it’ll be Orlando’s night.
Big thanks to Eugene for the information on Santos Laguna. Vamos Orlando!