Orlando City returns to Exploria Stadium this coming Sunday night to take on New York City FC. Every match is a must win in the congested Eastern Conference, and the Lions need to earn three points at home to make it three wins in a row. That is something Orlando City has been unable to accomplish so far this season. What do the Lions need to do to get the victory Sunday night?
Pretend It’s an Away Match
Orlando City is 5-7-0 at home and 5-3-6 on the road. Let’s pretend it’s an away match and get some points. Just tell the players after the match it was at home. Yes, I know that is ridiculous, but whatever mentality it is that is working on the road, implement it at Exploria Stadium.
There are some who believe — perhaps rightly — that the players are putting too much pressure on themselves in front of the home crowd to get the win. Pressing unproductively rather than just trusting the game plan. NYCFC won its last match, but dropped the three prior to that. This is actually good news for the Lions as Orlando City tends to be the team that puts opponents back on track when they are having a tough time. No need to worry about that, and so the Lions can be the protagonists that Óscar Pareja wants them to be.
A Makeshift Midfield
The combination of Mauricio Pereyra dropping back just a bit and Facundo Torres finding spaces in between the lines at Charlotte FC resulted in Torres being a constant threat to the defense. With Pereyra out due to yellow card accumulation, that combination won’t be there. Wilder Cartegena came on for Pereyra late against NYCFC, but either he or Andrés Perea could fill in for the captain. Or perhaps we’ll see Junior Urso back in central midfield.
Urso played well in the last match, and the Lions will need even more from him with Pereyra out. His performance on both offense and defense may determine the outcome of this match as much as anything else. Orlando City must find the rotation of players that allows Torres the freedom of movement he had against Charlotte, and that keeps the opponents from double- or triple-teaming him when he is on the ball.
Break on Through to the Other Side
NYCFC has a stingy defense. Between Sean Johnson in goal, and players like Alfredo Morales, Maxime Chanot, and Anton Tinnerholm, this is a very tough group to break down. Pair that with Orlando City’s challenges in scoring — especially without Pereyra — and getting the goals needed to win the match becomes very tough.
Hopefully, the midfield and wingers can figure a way to get the ball to Ercan Kara. The Lions’ striker came back from injury to get a goal in the match at Charlotte, and he typically makes good runs and puts himself where he should be. The challenge is having his teammates get him the ball when they should, so he can score a goal. If Kara can get Orlando City on the scoreboard early, it will force NYCFC’s defense to loosen up a bit, and then good things can happen.
Those are the things I’ll be looking for this weekend. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Vamos Orlando!