Orlando City hosts D.C. United on a rare Monday night match on the Fourth of July. Hopefully, the Lions can create some offensive fireworks in Exploria Stadium. This game is the first of a difficult six-match stretch of games in July.
Getting a win at home against a team near the bottom of the standings is the type of thing that playoff teams are able to do. The Lions are dealing with a short week following the U.S. Open Cup match against Nashville SC, but not too short — they’ll have four days rest in between matches rather than a typical Wednesday/Saturday situation.
Here are the things that Orlando City needs to do to secure three points on Independence Day against D.C. United.
Score First, Score Often
Orlando City hasn’t been a scoring powerhouse this season, with 20 goals and a minus-3 goal differential, but D.C. United is even worse, with 18 goals and a minus-9 goal differential. The Lions need to make United chase the game. Get up a goal, and then score another to make the visitors work for everything. If they have to push numbers forward, it offers chances to hit on the counter.
Scoring two goals is a real possibility since D.C. United has given up at least two goals in 10 out of the 15 MLS regular-season matches played this year. If the Lions can jump on D.C. quickly, it is possible that the scoring floodgates will open and Orlando City can log its first three-goal match of the season.
Park the Taxi
D.C. United’s new forward, Taxiarchis Fountas, has six goals and three assists in the nine matches played since joining the club. For those who aren’t good at math, he has been involved with one goal contribution per match. Shutting him down is essential if Orlando City is to get the win.
Fortunately, Antônio Carlos has returned from injury, and has looked good during the minutes he has played. This is not an impossible task, assuming Óscar Pareja is able to put out a first-choice defense with Carlos and Robin Jansson at center back, and with Ruan and João Moutinho at right and left fullback, respectively. The Lions will also need defensive midfielder César Araújo to have a good match.
Magic from Mauri
We found out in the loss at FC Cincinnati how important Mauricio Pereyra is to Orlando City’s offense. The Lions looked lethargic and lost in a match that they should have earned at least a point. Andrés Perea has not made the needed jump in quality this season to be an adequate substitute for Pereyra, and Orlando City does not have a like-for-like playmaker when the captain is not on the pitch.
Having Pereyra healthy enables the Lions to unlock defenses and break lines. Without him, teams can work to contain Facundo Torres, making the offense ever more stifled. Júnior Urso can mitigate the damage if he’s on his game, but when he isn’t, it’s even worse. Pereyra’s availability and quality will be key to an Orlando City victory.
That is what I will be looking for as the Lions look for all three points this Independence Day. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.