Week one saw a dramatic short-handed goal by Orlando City salvage a point in stoppage time of the second half. I told you on this very blog last week that Chris Mueller, Stefano Pinho, and Justin Meram would be players to watch. And two of the three were involved in the goal, even though Pinho had to come off the bench as a second-half sub to put the ball into the net.
Players to Watch: Orlando City
Going into last week there were six players ruled out. After the red card issued to PC, that will likely be seven players unavailable for Saturday's home match. I'll keep watching the news and update on Friday or Saturday if any of the players who have been out with injuries are cleared to play.
- Stefano Pinho - Pinho scored the first Orlando City goal of the 2018 season, finishing a great play that started with a Spector pass forward to Meram, who sent it back to Spector wide of the six-yard box, who crossed it to Pinho's feet for the scoring strike. Pinho's goal was a first-touch strike with no hesitation. That's not surprising, considering he is a two-time Golden Boot winner in the NASL. If Coach Jason Kreis asked my opinion, I'd give him a start next Saturday. Even if he doesn't start, I'm sure he'll get in the game, and he may strike again.
- Justin Meram - Meram was brought to Orlando for his experience, leadership, and versatility. All were on display in the first match. He was positioned as a striker, and he floated up and down the formation as needed, especially after the red card, creating opportunities, shooting on goal, and even tackling the ball off opponents when he got the opportunity. This team plays like they are both hungry and unselfish, and I'm very excited to see how Meram will contribute this week.
- Mohamed El-Munir - Other than "Super" Joe Bendik's amazing PK save in the first half, I think El-Munir had the best defensive play of the night, chasing down the speedy Darren Mattocks over 70 yards before executing a dramatic slide block from behind to poke the ball away just as the DC striker was poised to shoot. If he keeps showing the ability to outwit opponents, Orlando City fans may have to start calling the Libyan national our very own "Desert Fox" that steals away the chances opposing players thought to create.
Players to Watch: Minnesota United
There will be two familiar faces on the pitch come Saturday, and possibly a third in the stadium when Minnesota United FC comes to visit. Head Coach Adrian Heath will be back and so will former Orlando City striker Kevin Molino, who scored both goals for MNUFC in the season opener. Harrison Heath is listed as out with an injury, but if he travels with the team fans may see him in the stadium on Saturday night.
- Kevin Molino - Minnesota United lost their season opener by the score of 3 - 2. If Molino hadn't been playing, it would likely have been 3 - 0. Molino did a lot of scoring for Orlando City when he was with the club during the old USL days and the second MLS season for the club (after suffering a brutal ligament injury during the first MLS season). However, Molino did not play in the match against Orlando City last season, so this should be his first time on the pitch against his old team. That should definitely prove interesting.
- Rasmus Schuller - Schuller played all 90 minutes against San Jose and provided the assist on the second goal Molino scored. He also completed 78 passes on the night, making him a bustle of activity all over the pitch. It's likely the ball will find Schuller's feet quite often during the match, and Orlando City players need to keep a sharp eye on where he is.
- Tyrone Mears - Mears appears to be the corner kick specialist for Minnesota United. He took six of the team's eight corners last week and completed five key passes during the match. He will most likely be the one serving up set piece chances, so the lads would do well to study his tendencies on them.
Tomorrow, watch for my notes on the Series History between these two recent expansion sides.
Which players for Orlando City and Minnesota United do you think will make an impact on Saturday's game? Do you like my picks or do you foresee other players taking the lead this match? Let me know in the comments below!