Orlando City will be playing the third of five matches in a 15-day span when the Lions head to the nation’s capital to take on D.C. United Saturday. The Lions are returning from the Concacaf Champions League match against Tigres in Mexico, and are turning right around for this away match. There will be plenty of challenges 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 Red and Black this weekend.
Deal with Heavy Rotation
With the schedule so congested, Óscar Pareja has already started rotating his squad to keep legs as fresh as possible and that won’t change this weekend. Depending on the availability of Antônio Carlos, we may once again see rookie Abdi Salim playing center back. There is a very good chance that Kyle Smith will start as well.
Ercan Kara didn’t see any minutes against Tigres so he’ll most likely start up top. I know there have been grumblings online about his play so far this season, but if you’re not also mentioning the entire offense then you are doing Kara a disservice. How well Ramiro Enrique recovers from the knock he took in Mexico will determine how long Kara stays in. If Pareja needs to limit his minutes in anticipation of the second leg against Tigres, we may see Duncan McGuire. How well the continued mix of players works together will have a big impact on the result.
Wake up Torres
I mentioned that the offense hasn’t been very good so far, and I think a large part of it is Facundo Torres hasn’t looked like his 2022 self. I’m sure some of it is just getting used to the new teammates, and the communication levels not being where they need to be, but he hasn’t looked as sharp as we expect.
Orlando City needs the young Uruguayan winger to find his mojo quickly. When Torres is on his game, he is an instant threat from sideline to sideline in the offense. So, whether he’s pressing, has a case of the nerves, or just needs a better breakfast, someone needs to get him sorted so he can start producing goal contributions.
Break the Rooney Curse
How many times do you think they’ll show the clip of Will Johnson losing the ball and Rooney setting up a goal from way too far out, or his chipped goal from midfield in the lead-up to this match? The answer is always too many times. Of course, the Rooney Curse hasn’t been any better for Orlando City with the man as D.C.’s manager than when he was a player.
Bring in a shaman to cleanse the Lions. Give them all tattoos that protect against stocky Englishmen. Return the tiki doll back to its people so Greg Brady doesn’t lose the surfing contest...er...so Rooney can’t haunt our dreams. These are just a few suggestions, but it’s going to be hard enough to get a result on the road without having to deal with whatever funky magic has plagued Orlando City when Rooney is on the opposite team, so someone figure something out.
That is what I will be looking for as the Lions take on Rooney and the Black and Red. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.