OCSC vs. SJ: Victory Points, Players to Watch, and Series History

Today on the blog we will look ahead to Saturday's match for Orlando City as they host the San Jose Earthquakes. It's another night match at Orlando City Stadium, which means it's another chance for fans to participate in the "starry night" pregame tradition that began during the 2017 college football season at UCF and has been adopted by Orlando City fans in the new season as well. I'll break down three keys for an Orlando City victory, players to watch from both sides, and the series history.

 Photo by  andrew welch  on  Unsplash

Photo by andrew welch on Unsplash

Three Points to Victory

  • Defend Home Turf - It took six matches into 2016 for Orlando City to find their first clean sheet victory, and they had to travel to Talen Energy Stadium in Philly to do it. It would be a wonderful follow-up to that first road clean sheet to come back home and get a clean sheet victory on the home pitch. Last week's back line of Mohamed El-Munir, Amro Tarek, Lamine Sane, and RJ Allen had the best outing of any defensive combination so far. But wait, you say--Allen went down early with an injury. Yes he did. And fan favorite Cristian Higuita came on and delivered a solid defensive performance for the final 62 minutes of the match to preserve the clean sheet. The depth of the squad finally seems to be paying off as the players look like they are settling in. 
  • Manage the Injuries - I haven't forgotten about my injury table. That bad boy may make a reprise visit to the blog later this week. Both Jonathan Spector and Scott Sutter have been reported with injuries that kept them out of the match with Philly--Spector on the dreaded "concussion protocol" and Sutter diagnosed with unspecified "below the waist injuries." And as of yet no official outlet has had news of what injury forced RJ Allen to leave last week's match. Uri Rosell was in the 18 for the match in Philadelphia, and Cristian Higuita played well. We could possibly see some combination of those two players on the pitch for spells on Saturday night if Spector, Sutter, and Allen are all unable to play.
  • Score Early and Score Often - Getting the first goal in Philly really changed the complexion of the match. Philly was struggling to score on the season, and San Jose is struggling to win. They enter the match with only a single win on the season, so getting an early goal against them could put a similar psychological pressure on the Quakes as it did on the Union last week. Dom Dwyer is turning into the Dom Dwyer that Orlando City fans remember from 2013, and Chris Mueller is on pace to have double-digit goals if he keeps on the same pace of delivering two goals every six matches. And I'd also love to see Justin Meram finally break through and get on the score sheet. He's been so close in so many matches that it feels like he's right on the cusp of having a breakout game.

Players to Watch - Orlando City

  • Cristian Higuita - Higuita has been something of a missing man for the first part of the season, but he had a fantastic outing in relief of RJ Allen last week. He completed 34 of 36 passes for a 94% passing rate, won three aerial duels, and collected two tackles on the night. Higuita also played his physical style of football intelligently last week, going over 60 minutes without collecting a yellow card. His new-found maturity and passionate play can really help the team if several defensive starters will be out with injury, and he's contributed to scoring in previous seasons with his ability to range forward and backward on the pitch as the situation requires.
  • Yoshimar Yotun - Yotun was a workhorse on Saturday in Philadelphia. He had 7.1% of the possession and 84 touches on the night. He also had four dribbles and took two corners for Orlando City. And according to whoscored.com, Yotun rated the second highest score from the Orlando City offense at 7.96, just barely behind Sacha Kljestan's 8.12 rating.
  • Justin Meram - Meram has yet to score on the season, but it isn't for a lack of trying. Through his six appearances, he has racked up more shots (19) than any other player on the squad, and he has had tries denied by defenders, keepers, and the woodwork on more than one occasion. It feels like Meram is so close to scoring that it seems like it may be a breakout game when those shots finally start do finding the back of the net. I'd love to see that start this weekend.

Players to Watch - San Jose

  • Valeri Qazaishvili - The Georgian International (and I'm not talking about Bulldog Nation) is one of three players for the Earthquakes who has two goals and two assists on the season to co-lead the roster in both categories. He does have the highest number of shots (17), and the second highest shot-on-goal count with seven. He had five goals in 13 appearances for the Earthquakes last year after coming to MLS in June, making him perhaps the most efficient scoring threat on the squad.
  • Danny Hoesen - Hoesen is one of the other co-leaders for San Jose, and he has added 15 shots and has the highest on-target count with eight shots on goal. The Dutch native played the entire season with the Earthquakes last season, registering five goals and five assists in 32 appearances.
  • Magnus Eriksson - Eriksson also has two goals and two assists on the young season, with nine shots and six shots on target. 2018 marks Eriksson's first season in MLS after stints in his native Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, and China. He was on the 2013 and 2014 championship Malmo sides and led that club in scoring in 2013.
 Photo by  Natalia Y  on  Unsplash

Photo by Natalia Y on Unsplash

Series History

It would be great to see Orlando City break the deadlock in this series with a win. In three all-time meetings at the MLS level, matches between Orlando City and San Jose have ended in draws every time.

2015 Season

  • At SJ: OCSC 1 - 1 SJ

2016 Season

  • At ORL: OCSC 2 - 2 SJ

2017 Season

  • At SJ: OCSC 1 - 1 SJ

Series Summary

  • Wins: OCSC 0, SJ 0, Draws 3
  • Goals: OCSC 4, SJ 4
  • At ORL: OCSC 0-0-1

What are your thoughts on this weekend's match? Do you think Orlando City will successfully defend home turf and reach four wins in a row? Will the string of draws with San Jose continue? Which player for Orlando City will have a breakout match? Let me know in the comments below!