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Orlando City vs. LAFC: Three Keys to Victory

What does Orlando City need to do to earn all three points against LAFC at Exploria Stadium on Saturday?

MLS: FC Cincinnati at Orlando City SC Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The Lions return home with four points from their back-to-back West Coast trips. Now, Orlando City will host Los Angeles FC at Exploria Stadium Saturday night. The Lions will be looking for a third straight result against a Western Conference opponent. Here are three things Orlando City can do to earn all three points against LAFC.

Contain Vela

As Dan Patrick used to say, “You can’t stop him, you can only hope to contain him.” I’m not certain that’s entirely true when it comes to Carlos Vela, but he does have four goals in four matches. Of course, three of those came on a hat trick against Colorado in the first match. Still, he’s a huge scoring threat that Orlando City must deal with this Saturday.

In Orlando City’s favor is the consistently good to excellent play of Robin Jansson and Antônio Carlos. I would argue the pair has been one of, if not the, best center back pairings this season. Carlos in particular has been phenomenal. When you add in the likes of César Araújo, and the return of Sebas Mendez and Pedro Gallese, you start to feel pretty good about their chances. Still, Vela is a big concern heading into this match.

Life without Mauricio

The extent of Mauricio Pereyra’s injury is not public knowledge as of this writing, but my guess is the dreaded lower body injury. Obviously, we all hope for a speedy recovery for Orlando City’s captain and midfield facilitator. There are times this season that I don’t think Pereyra has been as good as his DP tag indicates, but there isn’t really a like-for-like option behind him.

Alexandre Pato could be the one to pull the strings for the offense, but it’s not his natural position. Andrés Perea has filled in before, but he hasn’t seen a ton of the field so far, and it is not his natural position either. Júnior Urso is another candidate for the position, but once again, it isn’t his normal role. It is possible we will see a formation change from Oscar Pareja to distribute Pereyra’s duties between these players. How effective the Pereyra replacement strategy is will go a long way towards how effective the Orlando City offense is on Saturday.

Release the Kara

We haven’t seen as much of Orlando City’s new DP as I might have suspected. As Michael Citro pointed out in The Mane Land PawedCast, having your 6-foot-4 DP striker up front might be a better way to utilize the position than either Pato or Tesho Akindele. I’m not trying to take anything away from either of those players. Tesho is a steadying presence when on the pitch, especially late in matches, and Pato has shown his skill already this season.

The Lions acquired Kara specifically to be the big guy up front, and it’s time for Pareja to utilize him to the fullest. He has an assist on Facundo Torres’ goal against the LA Galaxy, and he is due to open his goal account for Orlando City. There are opportunities for his teammates to provide service. Perhaps Torres can return the favor, perhaps Ruan finally makes a good cross, or Pato simply does Pato things. Kara is a big target in the area.

Those are the things I’ll be looking for this weekend. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Vamos Orlando!