Orlando City heads back on the road following its 2-1 win over the Houston Dynamo in Exploria Stadium last Saturday. This Friday, the Lions will take on FC Cincinnati at TQL Stadium. Orlando City has been good on the road this season, posting a 3-1-4 record, with the past two matches ending in draws. Can the Lions get a second win in a row? Here are the things that Orlando City needs to do to secure three points on the road in Cincinnati.
Keep Kara Scoring
Ercan Kara is on a scoring tear. It might have taken him a little bit to get going, but he has six goals in the last 10 MLS regular-season matches, and is scoring a goal every 110 minutes. To put that in perspective, league leaders Jeremy Ebobisse and Jesús Ferreira both have six goals in the last 10 matches. If not for his slow start due to joining both MLS and a new club, and missing a good chunk of preseason with an injury, it is possible that Kara would be right up there with the top strikers in MLS.
Kara is doing all the things necessary to put himself in place to score goals. He isn’t finishing all his chances, but nobody does. If Kara can find space between Cincinnati’s center back pairing of Nick Hagglund and Ian Murphy, he can give Orlando City that all-important road goal. If he can do it early on, it might make the difference between one point and all three.
More Goal Contributors
It is awesome that Kara is scoring goals, but he can’t be the only one doing it. Orlando City also needs the other two Designated Players to start putting it in the back of the net. As our own Michael Citro pointed out on The Mane Land PawedCast, Facundo Torres and Mauricio Pereyra have combined for two goals this season. That is the same amount of goals as the following non-DP players: Ruan, João Moutinho, Júnior Urso, and Alexandre Pato. That is not sustainable if Orlando City wants to challenge for hardware.
I’m not sure why Torres has been shy in shooting the ball, but he needs to start taking more shots. Assists are all well and good, but goals need to be added to the stat sheet. As for Mauricio, he might have goal if not for the ball bouncing off of Kara’s leg, but there’s no way to know for certain. I like that he took the shot, and Orlando City also needs him to do that more often. Kara is doing his part, now the other two need to step it up.
Another Match, Another Center Back Pairing
One of the best things about last season was having the stable center back pairing of Robin Jansson and Antônio Carlos. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case this season. Carlos’ early season injury derailed the defense early on. Yes, he has been seen at training and Óscar Pareja said he might be on the bench for the next match, but I don’t expect him to play quite yet. After that, the yellow cards and the occasional red card kept Orlando City without even a second-choice lineup in front of goal. The youngster Thomas Williams has gotten a look, but more recently Kyle Smith has been asked to fill the role. That leads me to believe that Williams is not quite ready for prime time, though I thought he acquitted himself well when on the pitch.
Against FC Cincinnati, the Lions will be without the Beefy Swede, who is serving a yellow card suspension. As such, expect to see Rodrigo Schlegel paired with Smith in front of Pedro Gallese. El Soldado is Pareja’s Swiss army knife and is willing to play anywhere needed, but that doesn’t make him a center back. The pair, along with Ruan and Moutinho, will need to defend against Cincinnati’s counter attack and the likes of Luciano Acosta and Brandon Vazquez. How well the defense can deal with that will determine how many goals Orlando City will need to score to win. Here’s hoping the Lions only need one.
That is what I will be looking for as the Lions look for points on the road in Cincinnati. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.