Tonight the MLS lads go on the road to take on the Philadelphia Union (2 - 2 - 0, 6 points). They will very likely be without Tommy Redding and Cyle Larin who both suffered injuries that caused them to be pulled from the home game with Portland last Sunday, and Brek Shea's in-match yellow card was upgraded to a red card suspension by the league on further review, so he will be out for the game.
This will mean a significant change in the lineup for the match at Philadelphia, who currently find themselves just two points behind Orlando City (2 - 0 - 2, 8 points) and tied for second place in the Eastern Conference.
Players to Watch
As I said in the wrap-up for the Portland match, Kaka was magical in his return to the pitch, doing everything you would want from your captain. He will need to have another match like that to help Orlando City deal with the loss of Shea and Larin, who have both been very active in scoring and building up to Orlando City goals so far this season.
Two other Orlando City players who will bear watching in this one, I believe are Adrian Winter and Kevin Molino. Winter always has a nose for being around the ball and pushing it toward the goal. He has been very important for Orlando City in terms of possession in the attacking end, and he has proven a great passer in build ups toward goals for the club. Kevin Molino is always exciting to watch, and after opening his goal scoring account last week with a PK against Portland, it will be very interesting to see if that translates to him starting to score more from the run of play as he did so many times for Orlando City in USL days.
Finally, there are three other Orlando City players who may get a chance to start or sub today that could bring an impact to the game: the newly-signed Julio Baptista, Antonio Nocerino, and rookie Hadji Barry.
On the Philadelphia side of the pitch, forward CJ Sapong is off to a good start for the 2016 campaign with 2 goals scored. Midfielder Chris Pontius also has two goals and an assist on the season, while defender Fabinho (Fabio Alves) has an assist and has been very active for the Union, appearing in almost every minute of the young season so far. Goalkeeper Andre Blake has one clean sheet on the season to match Orlando City's Joe Bendik, although he has not yet had to face a PK this season.
I was not too far off in my prediction of a 3 - 1 victory against Portland, so I'm going to try my luck again. This time, with all the lineup changes it feels like this is a game that could cause Orlando City to struggle. I am going to predict that our lads go to Philly and return with a 1 - 1 draw, a result that will guarantee that we remain at least tied atop the Eastern Conference table. Getting a result on the road is a good outcome, and with an uncertain lineup impacted by the injuries to Redding and Larin and the red card to Shea, it will be a good early-season test of the 2016 roster's depth and chemistry.
What do you think? Am I being overly pessimistic with the loss of three starters from the club, or do you think missing Shea, Larin, and Redding will be too insurmountable for Orlando City to achieve any kind of result? Let me know in the comments below!