Welcome to your match thread for an Independence Day match-up between Orlando City and D.C. United at Exploria Stadium (7 p.m., FOX 35 Plus). This is the first of two scheduled MLS matches between the clubs this season. The Lions (7-6-4, 25 points) and the Black & Red (4-9-2, 14 points) will play the return leg at Audi Field in a few weeks on July 31.
Here’s what you need to know.
The Lions are 6-6-1 against D.C. in the all-time league series since the club joined MLS, and 6-6-2 in all competitions. Orlando is 4-2-1 at home in the series and swept the two meetings last year.
The most recent meeting came last Oct. 2 at Exploria Stadium with Daryl Dike scoring a dramatic, late winner in the 97th minute to lift the Lions to a 2-1 home victory. Robin Jansson scored a first-half goal off a corner kick scramble to offset an early Julian Gressel strike. The first match of 2021 took place on May 16 in D.C., with the Lions winning 1-0 on a seventh-minute Mauricio Pereyra goal. That win snapped United’s 3-0-1 streak in the series in league play and 3-0-2 in all competitions dating back to City’s previously most recent win over D.C. back in 2017.
The teams did not meet in what was an odd 2020 season.
D.C. United swept the season series in 2019, winning 1-0 at Audi Field back on June 26, 2019. Wayne Rooney’s wondergoal from his own half of the pitch caught Brian Rowe napping and served as the only scoring in that match. The Lions fell 2-1 at home on March 31, 2019, with set pieces ruining the night for Orlando. You might recall that controversy surrounded the winning goal, with then-coach James O’Connor visibly upset after the match. Steve Birnbaum scored the first on a set piece and Rooney scored the second on a free kick that he took from wherever the hell he wanted rather than where the foul occurred. Frederic Brillant bulldozed Rowe on the play as the ball sailed into the net.
D.C. was 1-0-2 in three total meetings (two in league play) in 2018. The two teams met on opening day 2018 and the Lions posted a dramatic late 1-1 draw on Stefano Pinho’s 93rd-minute goal. Orlando went down to 10 men 41 minutes into the match when PC was sent off. The teams met in U.S. Open Cup action on June 20 of that year at the Maryland SoccerPlex and again drew 1-1, but the Lions advanced to the quarterfinals thanks to a 4-2 penalty shootout win. Luciano Acosta put the hosts ahead but Justin Meram equalized on a rainy night and that was it for the scoring until the shootout. United won that game at Audi Field on Aug. 12, 2018 by a 3-2 score. Cristian Higuita was sent off after video review with 40 minutes remaining. Two other controversial video reviews went D.C.’s way that night as well, and Orlando had a player pulled down while trying to break out in transition late in the game, only to see the play turn around for the winning goal.
Orlando swept the two league meetings in 2017, the teams split two lopsided games in 2016 — with each team winning at home — and the Black & Red went 2-1-0 in the first three meetings back in 2015.
Orlando City is coming off a dramatic penalty shootout win after a 1-1 draw Wednesday at home against Nashville SC, but in league play the Lions will look to bounce back from a rough 1-0 loss at FC Cincinnati on Saturday, June 25. Truth be told, Orlando didn’t play any better in the first half against Nashville than it did in a lethargic performance in Cincy the previous weekend, but the Lions did get things going in the second half, despite only having one goal to show for it.
City has only one outright win in its last seven matches in all competitions (1-2-4), although the Austin game that started this run should have been a victory. There have been two U.S. Open Cup shootout advancements in that time, so it seems less dire than that, but Orlando must get things going in league play while it is still in contact with the other teams near the top of the Eastern Conference table.
Orlando City is 4-4-0 at home in 2022 league play and 6-4-2 at Exploria in all competitions. That’s not a terrible home record but it’s below expectations — even if two of those losses saw the Lions outplay their opponents by a fairly wide margin and simply not be able to find the net or deal with the few transition opportunities they yielded.
D.C. United is at the bottom of the Eastern Conference but has only three fewer wins than the fifth-place Lions in a tightly packed table. The Black & Red sunk to that spot during a current 0-4-2 winless skid, including two losses and a draw on the road. D.C. is on a five-match winless streak away from Audi Field (0-4-1) and Orlando must take advantage of D.C.’s poor road form this season (1-4-1).
D.C. fired former head coach Hernán Losada in late April after a four-game losing streak early in the season. United got the new coach bump under interim manager Chad Ashton in a 3-2 win over New England in the next game and won two of three before going into the current six-game winless slide.
Ashton, like Losada, likes his team to press, create chaos, win the ball back, and then go on the attack. But United has struggled to finish most of those chances this season, with only Chicago, Charlotte, and Miami scoring fewer than D.C.’s 18 goals on the year in the Eastern Conference. If one includes the Western Conference, only Colorado and Sporting Kansas City join that list. D.C. also hasn’t been as solid defensively in 2022, languishing near the bottom of the pack in goals conceded.
The man Orlando City will need to stop is newcomer Taxiarchis Fountas, who has nine direct goal contributions in nine matches since joining D.C. His six goals ties him with Ola Kamara — himself a Lion killer in past years — for the team lead and the duo have combined for more than two-thirds of D.C.’s scoring output this season. Fountas has directly impacted more than half of United’s goals in 2022 despite not stepping onto the pitch for the team until April 16. Orlando already knows how threatening Gressel can be from the wings, and the former Atlanta United man leads D.C. with six assists — three better than Fountas and Michael Estrada.
“When we look at the standings, we may see a team that is not having a good time,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said. “But really, our intentions with the players is first, put the cup triumph aside and focus on the league. And second, respect the rival and understand the responsibility to win this game and get three points at home, and respect D.C. United’s players and coaches. That’s what we’re focusing on now.”
Orlando City will be without Mason Stajduhar (jaw) and Michael Halliday (international duty). Joao Moutinho (lower leg) is still listed as questionable.
Mandatory Match Content
- Our Intelligence Report tells us more about United from Sarah Kallassy, managing editor of SBNation’s D.C. blog, Black and Red United.
- This week’s PawedCast has our key match-ups and predictions for the game.
- Our Dave Rohe provided his three keys to victory for Orlando City in this match.
- Our Josh Munsey went inside the numbers in his scouting report for the game.
Orlando City (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Pedro Gallese.
Defenders: Kyle Smith, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, Ruan.
Defensive Midfielders: Junior Urso, Sebas Mendez.
Attacking Midfielders: Jake Mulraney, Mauricio Pereyra, Alexandre Pato.
Forward: Ercan Kara.
Bench: Adam Grinwis, Alex Freeman, Antonio Carlos, Cesar Araujo, Andres Perea, Benji Michel, Facundo Torres, Tesho Akindele, Jack Lynn.
D.C. United (5-3-2)
Goalkeeper: Rafael Romo.
Defenders: Sami Guediri, Steven Birnbaum, Brendan Hines-Ike, Donovan Pines, Julian Gressel.
Midfielders: Chris Durkin, Drew Skundrich, Michael Estrada.
Forwards: Taxi Fountas, Ola Kamara.
Bench: Jon Kempin, Brad Smith, Chris Odio-Atsem, Tony Alfaro, Theodore Ku-Dipietro, Russell Canouse, Sofiane Djeffal, Kimarni Smith, Nigel Robertha.
Ref: Allen Chapman.
AR1: Kevin Klinger.
AR2: Tyler Wyrostek.
4th: Silviu Petrescu.
VAR: Alejandro Mariscal.
AVAR: Peter Balciunas.
How to Watch
Match Time: 7 p.m.
Venue: Exploria Stadium — Orlando.
TV: FOX 35 PLUS (local only).
Streaming: The match can be streamed on ESPN+ (out of market only) and on the LionNation app (in market only).
Radio: FM 96.9 The Game (English), Acción 97.9 FM, 810 AM (Spanish).
Enjoy the match. Go City!
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