It’s Friday once again, and that means another Orlando City match is almost upon us. This week, the Lions will try to stop their poor run of form in league play against a team they had some recent success against in the U.S. Open Cup.
That’s right, the New York Red Bulls are next up for OCSC, and that means I spoke with Ben Cork, managing editor of SBNation’s Once a Metro. As usual, Ben did an excellent job in getting us caught up on NYRB.
New York signed Elias Manoel during the summer transfer window. What do you expect him to bring to the team?
Ben Cork: Well, unfortunately it appears the question is becoming one of how many minutes Elias will get at all. The Brazilian forward will be joining from Gremio on a loan with an option to purchase, but with the deal only getting finalized at the transfer deadline last week there is still weeks of visa red tape to cut through.
But should Elias arrive in time to make an impact over the season’s final weeks, it will be improving the team’s wide play in the final third. A youth fullback-turned-winger who has recently been trained as a line-leading central striker, Elias could replicate fellow Brazilian attacker Luquinhas and the x-factor he brought to a stalling Red Bulls attack earlier this year. If he can pounce on the second balls created by the team’s long play, he could be dangerous in the pragmatic attacking system Gerhard Struber will be running in the season’s closing stretch.
The Red Bulls seem to have found their shooting boots a bit, scoring four goals against both Austin and Colorado in recent weeks. What worked so well offensively in those games?
BC: Austin was a peculiar game because it was something of a showcase for several players who have been demoted in the squad pecking order by Gerhard Struber over the summer. Rotating ahead of the fateful cup semifinal against you know who, the Red Bulls saw a more fluid attack with combination through the middle between Patryk Klimala, Caden Clark, and man of the match Dru Yearwood (as well as the running of teenage sensation Serge Ngoma) charging the team’s lethal first-half performance.
Colorado, on the other hand, was a more conventional lineup and performance within the context of Struber’s reign in New York, with the team’s high press smothering Colorado deep in their own half and forcing goals in, such as a deflected Yearwood blast, an Aaron Long set piece header, and a Lewis Morgan penalty, making for the game’s opening punches. With Struber stating the team will be somewhat more pragmatic defensively after the collapses against Orlando and Colorado, look for the Red Bulls to focus on set piece danger and long passes and shots rather than chance-carving.
NYRB is sitting pretty at fourth in the Eastern Conference, and is in position to have a high playoff seed. What constitutes a successful season for this team?
BC: It’s been a strange season in New York, with paradoxes everywhere. The team combined a perfect away record with anemic results at home in the season’s opening months, and when such form evened out in the spring it was good enough to put the Red Bulls into conference and even Supporters Shield contention. But an inconsistent summer has seen the team slip down the table before a series of demoralizing results in the cup and league in recent weeks rattled the team’s mindset.
The squad’s captain, Aaron Long, said postgame last week that the team has settled on a home playoff game through fourth in the conference as their concrete goal for the season’s final weeks. Such an achievement would be a welcome one for a fanbase that hasn’t seen such a fixture since 2018 and a young squad growing in confidence, but it still feels like a mild letdown after the promise of the season’s first half.
Are there any players that will be unavailable due to injuries, suspensions, etc? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?
BC: The team is fairly healthy at the moment with some conspicuous exceptions. Obviously the aforementioned Elias Manoel is still dealing with paperwork and not with the team yet, while utility defender Tom Edwards has now been away from the team for nearly two weeks on personal leave amid speculation about a return to parent club Stoke City. But the rest of the senior squad is fairly healthy, and deadline day signings Kyle Duncan and Tyler Pasher have already begun training with the team. Saturday’s home game on a full week’s rest should be a glimpse at what Gerhard Struber sees as his preferred 11 at the moment.
* Projected lineup and score prediction not provided.
Big thank you to Ben for the great information on the Red Bulls. Vamos Orlando!