Orlando City’s last game didn’t exactly go the way anyone was hoping it would, but it’s time to put that one in the rearview mirror. The Lions have five games left in the 2022 Major League Soccer season, and winning Wednesday’s match would put the good guys on a strong course towards securing a spot in the playoffs for the third year running.
OCSC’s penultimate midweek match of the season sees Atlanta United come to town in a game that has big stakes for both teams. A win for Orlando would see the Lions move within one point of New York City FC in fourth place, while Atlanta pretty much needs to run the table to have a realistic chance of sneaking into the playoffs.
To help get us caught up on the Five Stripes, I spoke to David McFarland, one of the authors over at SBNation’s Dirty South Soccer. He was kind enough to provide some insight into some of the recent headlines surrounding the team, and gave us an idea of where we might see Atlanta heading in the future.
When we last spoke, Atlanta’s injury list was a mile long. Has that situation improved at all, or is there still a lengthy list of missing names?
David McFarland: The longterm absentees remain out (Brad Guzan, Miles Robinson, Ozzie Alonso), but other than midfielders Emerson Hyndman and Matheus Rossetto, Gonzalo Pineda has a full squad at his disposal.
There’s been a lot of discourse surrounding Josef Martinez following his suspension last week, but Atlanta put that drama aside and got a big win over Toronto on Saturday. What sort of effect do you predict the situation has on the team moving forward?
DM: Center back Juan Jose Purata dedicated his hat trick last weekend to the Venezuelan so it appears as though the team is still with its number 7. Hopefully his return will push Atlanta together as a group, but first Josef will have to reconcile with Pineda and maybe bring some chicken and rice to practice to make up for the lost goods.
The Five Stripes are still not out of the playoff race yet, but they’ll need at least six points from their last three matches as well as some help from teams currently above them to get in. If that doesn’t happen, what should be the strategy this off-season? Does the team just need a couple pieces and more luck on the injury front next year, or would you like to see more widespread changes?
DM: Reports have come out recently that Head Coach Gonzalo Pineda will be sticking around no matter what after the season, so the focus should be on improving the squad. Whether Pineda staying is a good choice or not is up for debate, but the Mexican won’t succeed without significant investment in the transfer window. And not just randomly throwing money at players, either. Carlos Bocanegra needs to show something that’s gone missing all too often while he’s been technical director: smart, proven signings that can come in and make a difference without needing massive transfer fees.
Are any players unavailable due to injury, suspension, etc? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?
DM: No Rossetto or Hyndman as mentioned previously, but Josef should be good to go after serving his suspension Saturday.
I’ll go with an a 4-2-3-1: Raul Gudino; Andrew Gutman, Juan Jose Purata, Alan Franco, Brooks Lennon; Santiago Sosa, Amar Sejdic; Luiz Araujo, Thiago Almada, Edwin Mosquera; Dom Dwyer.
Score prediction not provided.
As always, thank you to David for helping us get caught up to speed on Atlanta United. Vamos Orlando!