We talked to our friend Ben at The Mane Land to find out more about how Orlando City SC played in their first game against Real Salt Lake, why the d-mid is an especially important position for this side, and how much of a loss it is to not have Nani or Dom Dwyer this weekend.
You can see my responses to his questions about the Rapids here.
What do you see in the first game against Real Salt Lake that impressed you? What concerns you as we move into the season?
The best thing about the RSL game was the organization and defensive solidity that the team showed. Real Salt Lake had an Expected Goals total of .16, and while xG is by no means a perfect statistic when it comes to offensive threat, the Lions didn’t really look in danger of conceding. This would seem to continue a trend of Oscar Pareja-led teams being rock solid at the back, and as long as that continues it will provide a strong foundation for the rest of the season.
The biggest concern for me has to be scoring goals. The RSL game was a scoreless draw and the Lions had three pretty clear-cut chances, but failed to convert any of them. Creating chances and putting them away has been the biggest concern for quite some time now, even going back to last season, and while it was only one game I didn’t see much to alleviate those fears.
There was a story on The Mane Land that went into detail about the importance of d-mid for OCSC: why is that particularly important for this team and how effective was this position in the first game against RSL?
It’s important because without strong play from defensive midfield this team probably isn’t going to get much of anywhere. There’s a new center back pairing that’s going to need some extra help while they get comfortable with each other, but more importantly, Orlando isn’t blessed with a wealth of creative talent.
Mauricio Pereyra is the best creative midfielder on the team, and he’s going to need license to get forward in attack as much as possible which means Sebas Mendez and Junior Urso will need to be very diligent about filling in the spaces he leaves when he joins the attack. Urso and Mendez were excellent against RSL, with Mendez being named the Man of the Match. Their efforts were very important in limiting RSL to those .16 Expected Goals that I mentioned earlier.
How much of a loss is it to not have Nani for these first two games (due to suspension) or Dom Dwyer indefinitely (due to injury)?
It’s a huge loss, and there simply isn’t any getting around it. The guy had 12 goals and 10 assists last year, both of which led the team. When he’s on form he’s the best player on the roster, so not having him around is definitely not making life any easier.
I haven’t heard anything recently about Dom Dwyer’s injury status, but I don’t expect him to be back for this one. Again, that definitely makes life harder for Orlando. Dom had a down year in terms of scoring in 2019, as he was only able to manage 7 goals. However, he struggled with injuries and wasn’t surrounded by a ton of creative talent, and in form, he’s the best option at striker this team has. Like Nani, Dom’s absence certainly doesn’t help things, as evidenced by the goalless RSL game.
Predicted Starting XI: Pedro Gallese; Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, Ruan; Sebas Mendez, Junior Urso, Mauricio Pereyra; Benji Michel, Tesho Akindele, Chris Mueller
Predicted score: 2-1 Colorado win