The last time these two teams met, the Black-and-Red scored late in the match, in stoppage time to escape Orlando with a win. It was Luis Silva’s first game back and he came through for his team by scoring on a set piece from about 30 yards out with a curling right footer that would find the net. While DC would get the result, Orlando dominated that game from start to finish. Tonight, Orlando looks to avenge that loss as they take on the Black-and-Red at RFK in Washington, DC.
Orlando has yet to win a home game, with their two wins on the season coming on the road. They have shown the ability to rally very late in matches to avoid losses and scratch out at least a point. The Lions have had something in common with the team they’ll be facing tonight, they are finally starting to get healthy and it shows.
Last week they gave up a goal in both stanzas yet rallied to score two goals in the final 15 minutes of the match to escape New England with a draw. They’ll be facing the two top teams in the Eastern Conference in back to back games, but Orlando had success against DC the first go round. KaKa and company dominated possession and put an insane amount of pressure on DC’s back line. Generating nearly 10 quality scoring opportunities in that game, if they’re able to come out and dictate the tempo yet again, it gives them a great chance to go on the road and steal a result from one of the hottest teams in the league.
Even with the loss of midfielder Kevin Molino, Orlando will be a tough team to play. As of late, their first round pick in last year’s MLS Super Draft is starting to prove why he was selected so high. Cyle Larin has played in six of the nine games this season while starting four of them, he scored his second goal of the season in last week’s match against New England. Ribero and Ramos also played key roles in both wins this season and were productive against the Black-and-Red in their match earlier this season.
The home side has yet to taste defeat in the last seven outings, but if you were in that locker room after the draws, you’d think much different. As they’ve continued to get healthy, they’ve just gotten better and better. In last week’s match against Sporting KC, DC may have played one of it’s worst halves of the year and still scored the game’s first goal.
They are a tough, physical team where all 11 players are asked to defend making them a tough side to break down. On those rare occasions when opposing teams break down, they still have arguably the leagues best net minder in Bill Hamid as the last line of defense. It hasn’t been just one player in terms of scoring goals for DC, it’s been a team effort as several defenders have goals and everyone on the field is a threat in their attack. With the return of Fabian Espindola, the Black-and-Red’s attack had found a rhythm, but he’s expected to miss his second game in a row with a knee injury suffered two games ago against Columbus.
Steven Birnbaum and Markus Halsti are going to be a part of the 18 man roster for the game, giving United even more depth and options for the coaching staff as Kofi Opare has played very well in Steven’s absence. With the grueling schedule this week and the next month and a half, it wouldn’t be shocking if DC started to lean on some of it’s depth and adjusted their lineup at times to keep players fresh as they’re a team with many veterans.
What we didn’t do well enough is when we got hold of the ball, make sure we’re either punishing them going the other way for being so aggressive or sustaining possession. We gave a lot of balls back, where now it was another cycle or another attack on their end and then we get tired and then we don’t move for each other. That vicious cycle, so it’s important for us to have a good balance – Ben Olsen
The Black-and-Red can ill afford another effort similar to what they put out in Orlando earlier this season, but this is a different United team. They’re a confident bunch that doesn’t want to taste defeat and despises draws. Even with their success this season, they’ve yet to put forth a full 90 minutes of great soccer. It’s coming, Orlando needs to hope it’s not tonight.
Keys to a DC win
- Win the possession battle. Can’t afford to let Orlando dictate the terms of the game like in the first match
- Sustain possession and attack. Make Orlando pay for being aggressive on the attacking end
- Clear the ball. In the past few matches in which DC ended up with the draw, they struggled to clear the ball out of their third
- Limit KaKa’s touches. He’s one of the best playmakers in the world still
- With Espindola out, Rolfe needs more touches. He’s the best at combining with others on the team
- Maintain intensity for full 90 minutes. There have been mini-lapses this season that have cost the team three points and they’ve left games with just one