Orlando City will be playing the fifth of five matches in a 15-day span when the Lions host Charlotte FC Saturday at Exploria Stadium. The Lions are back in action following the Concacaf Champions League match against Tigres on Wednesday. Oscar Pareja has done an admirable job in rotating his players but there will still be plenty of tired legs as Orlando City takes on this Eastern Conference opponent.
Here are the things that the Lions need to do to secure three points against the Crown — yes, that’s really their nickname — this weekend.
Mind the Gaps
Charlotte has been vulnerable at the back so far this season. Atlanta pulled the Charlotte defense to pieces, scoring three goals in the run of play. St. Louis City also dropped three on Charlotte, although one goal came from a penalty kick and another from an own goal by Bill Tuiloma. Add those six goals to the one the team gave up in the opener against the New England Revolution, and Charlotte is leaking goals at a substantial rate. They have allowed the most goals in MLS so far this season.
Orlando City has somewhat struggled to complete passes in the attacking end, or string together a fluid attack. Charlotte’s defensive miscues might be exactly the right medicine for the Lions to get things moving up top. Let Facundo Torres and Martin Ojeda pull them out of shape and have Ercan Kara or another attacker step into the gap and put it into the goal.
In Gallese (and the defense) We Trust
Pedro Gallese has three clean sheets and entered Wednesday night having allowed just one goal across all competitions. He is proving every match how important he is to Orlando City’s success, and I expect him to keep on doing so. That’s not to say he’s done it alone. With a host of different players in front of him, including rookie Abdi Salim, the Lions have been stingy on defense.
That will need to continue, and it all starts in the defensive midfield. Cesar Araujo is the obvious starter all things being equal, but how he’s feeling after a tough midweek match will determine how much we see him against Charlotte. Enzo Nahuel Copetti is Charlotte’s new No. 9, and he has the club’s only goal so far this season. Karol Świderski is still a credible threat as well. Both of these players need to be shut down by Orlando City’s defense.
Avoid the Hangover
Orlando City failed to advance past Tigres in the second leg of the Concacaf Champions League match, falling to the Liga MX club by a score of 1-1 — Tigres’ away goal being the difference. The emotional defeat has the potential to spill over into the match this Saturday with the Lions needing to focus on Charlotte.
The effort expended by the Lions might mean heavy legs or heavy rotation against their Eastern Conference opponent. Torres, Mauricio Pereyra, Ojeda, and more all played significant minutes. It’s also possible that such a loss can stay with a team with only a few days to rest and prepare. How the Lions handle the aftermath of the match will go a long way in determining how ready they are for Charlotte to come to town.
That is what I will be looking for as the Lions take on bottom of the table Charlotte. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.