Orlando City travels to the City of Brotherly Love to take on the top of the table Philadelphia Union Saturday night in Subaru Park. With six regular-season matches to go, and the middle pack of the Eastern Conference so tight, every match and every point matters greatly. The Lions will need to do something that many teams have not been able to do in the regular season — take points from the Union. What do the Lions need to do to earn three points on the road?
Avoid an Open Cup Hangover
I’m writing this the day before the U.S. Open Cup match, and as such I have no idea what the result is. For the purposes of this article, it doesn’t actually matter what the result was. Win or lose, the club, coaches, and players need to put it all behind them to focus on making the playoffs, and that means trying to pick up some points on the road.
If, as I hope, Orlando City wins and lifts the trophy on Wednesday night, the Lions won’t be able to celebrate too hard as they will need to be back at work to prepare for the Union. If the unthinkable happens, they will still need to pick themselves up and refocus on the next match against a very good Philadelphia Union side. Good or bad, there is no time to dwell on the outcome of the match against Sacramento Republic FC.
All the Defense
Dániel Gazdag has six goals in Philly’s last four matches, and has 18 goals so far in the regular season. Julián Carranza has five goals in those same four matches, and has 14 goals so far in the regular season. Of course, those are only 11 of the 18 goals that the Union have scored in those four matches. To say they are on a scoring tear is an understatement.
In the two times Orlando City faced the Union this season, the Lions have held Philadelphia to only two goals. The first was in Orlando City’s 2-1 victory in the Open Cup match in May, and the other was in the 1-0 regular season loss in July. Both of those matches were at Exploria Stadium.
How well César Araújo, Ruan, Antônio Carlos, Robin Jansson (or Rodrigo Schlegel), João Moutinho, and Pedro Gallese do against Philadelphia’s potent attack will greatly determine the outcome of the match. Frankly, the rest of the team needs to be in on the defense as well.
Release the Facundo
The emergence of Facundo Torres is heartening, and not all that surprising. We knew that as a Young Designated Player it might take a while for Torres to acclimate to a new country, culture, city, club, and league. It seems that he has done so, and his production over the last several matches is exactly what the club and supporters want from the Uruguayan. Torres has goal contributions in each of the four matches leading up to the Open Cup final, and really looks to have hit his stride. This in turn has let Mauricio Pereyra drop back a little and really opened up the offense.
Orlando City will need to score goals, and Torres is the key to that given the form he is in. He won’t be able to do it all by himself, but the new-look offense is scoring more goals with eight in the last four matches. That’s pretty good, but more might be needed.
Those are the things I’ll be looking for this Saturday. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Vamos Orlando!