Orlando City continues the MLS season this Sunday as the Lions travel to Audi Field to take on D.C. United in an Eastern Conference meeting. The previous match against D.C. United was the only time that the Lions scored three goals this season. Unfortunately, the team also gave up five goals in that match.
Here are the things that the Lions need to do to secure three points on the road against Wayne Rooney’s D.C. United this weekend.
Limiting Taxiarchis Fountas’ goal scoring is the absolute number one priority for Orlando City in this match. Taxi has 10 goals and three assists in 13 games played this season. I’m no math whiz, but that is one goal contribution per match. Of course, three of those goals came against Orlando City, so the Lions will need to do a better job of stopping him on Sunday.
As of the writing of this piece, I have no idea how much energy the normal starters had to exert in the U.S. Open Cup match against the New York Red Bulls. What I do know is that it’s been a very busy month for the Lions, and Orlando City may not field a completely first-choice defense to start this match. That is unfortunate because that might be what it takes to stop D.C. United’s prolific attacker.
As we have spoken about on The Mane Land PawedCast numerous times, Orlando City has an offensive balance problem. Defenses have figured out that if they swarm Mauricio Pereyra, and Facundo Torres, they can all but shut down Orlando City’s offense. There needs to be a serious threat on the opposite side of Torres to open things up and to give Torres and Pereyra enough space to create.
The left side of the field has been a bust for Orlando City so far. Entering last night’s U.S. Open Cup game, Benji Michel hadn’t scored a goal since the first match of the season, and has been very careless with the ball. Jake Mulraney has simply disappeared in matches when playing. Neither of these players is creating the type of threat needed to provide balance for Torres.
It’s possible that Orlando City’s newest signings can help. Nicholas Gioacchini is available for the Lions this weekend and he can be an offensive threat. The only question is where he will play in Pareja’s system, and will he have enough training with the club to be effective. Another possibility is recently signed Ivan Angulo from Colombia. Angulo is a winger, but his P-1 Visa and International Transfer Certificate are unlikely to be completed in time for him to play.
Breaking the Lines
As mentioned above, Taxi is the main threat, but he’s not D.C. United’s only weapon. D.C. United likes to wear you down by sending wave after wave of attacks, never letting you get out of your own end. Too often, Orlando City has gone into survival mode against that type of attack. The players don’t make the crisp passes to work out of the back, or the long pass to keep the opponents honest.
This is an area where Robin Jansson can be of great help. He has a very accurate long ball, and likes to make runs up the pitch that seem to surprise the opposition. I’m not sure why they don’t shut him down earlier. I just assume they’re too surprised at the sight of the Beefy Swede making an attacking run.
When Jansson isn’t doing his thing, César Araujo and João Moutinho need to be the ones making the key passes to get the ball up to Júnior Urso and Pereyra. It won’t be easy given the style of play from D.C. United, but the Lions need to get their heads on right, and get back to the crisp passing that we saw last season.
That is what I will be looking for as the Lions take on the D.C. United Rooneys. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.