The season opener for Orlando City is behind them. What is not behind them are the fact that a number of players will not be available next Saturday when the Lions welcome some familiar faces back to town. When Minnesota United plays at Orlando City Stadium, it will be the first MLS match back in Orlando for former OCSC Head Coach Adrian Heath since he was fired midway through the 2016 season. It will also be the first time former OCSC standout Kevin Molino will have the opportunity to face his old club. Last year when OCSC traveled to St. Paul to play Minnesota, Molino did not participate in the match.
So what will Orlando City need to do in order to win the match next Saturday and take all three points?
- Work Out the Jitters: Six players were ineligible for selection for the season opener due to injury or suspension. That meant both Cam Lindley and Chris Mueller earned their first professional starts. Both rookies had moments where they looked shaky, and Lindley gave up a costly foul in the first 30 minutes that both earned him a yellow card and created a free kick opportunity for DC United's Yamil Asad to put the visitors up early. The youngsters are going to need to settle in for at least one more match now that PC will also be added to the list of players unavailable due to suspension.
- Stay Sharp in Defense: Counting stoppage time in both halves, Orlando City survived nearly 60 minutes down a man yesterday without conceding a second goal. The defensive effort was enough to allow the home side to draw level on a beautiful opportunity created by Justin Meram, assisted by Jonathan Spector, and finished by Stefano Pinho. The new back line lived up to expectations with much more movement and pace shown from sideline to sideline. Aside from Joe Bendik's amazing PK save in the first half, the defensive play of the match was delivered by Mohamed El-Munir, who chased Darren Mattocks 70 yards down the pitch and executed a beautiful sliding block between the attacker's legs to eliminate a chance for the Jamaican to take a shot.
- Dial in the Final Touch: OCSC had 13 shots on the night, which is a marked improvement over the average from last season when the attack was anemic for the Lions. However, only three of those shots were on target, meaning there's still a little work to be done to ensure the offense is consistently testing the opposing keepers. I was extremely pleased with the quality of the shots in the first game, as veteran and new players alike were shooting the ball on a trajectory that would pass under the crossbar for the most part instead of trying to find a target ten rows or more up in the stands behind the goalkeeper.
Tomorrow, look for my Players to Watch in this weekend's matchup.
What do you think Orlando City will need to do to win the match against Minnesota United? Let me know in the comments below!