Orlando City fans have a right to be very happy coming into today's match. Despite having played two fewer games than East leading Columbus Crew, the Lions were but a point out of the top of the table after last week's matches were all said and done. Today they get ready to host the fourth home match of the season. That number is important because four is a number that has appeared both times the Galaxy and Orlando City have met.
Back in 2015, Orlando City recorded its first outright win against the LA Galaxy, then defending MLS Cup champions, by the score of 4 - 0. Last season in the rematch, Orlando City traveled to LA and lost the match 4 - 2. Coming into this match, Orlando City is running on better form, having won five of their last six matches dating back to last season, while the Galaxy have won only two of their most recent six matches. Orlando City has also taken all nine available points on the season at home, while the Galaxy have split their two road matches this season, winning at Real Salt Lake and losing at Vancouver.
Players to Watch
A major key for LA so far this season has been the presence of Midfielder/Forward Emmanuel Boateng. He has started three of the Galaxy's five matches so far this season, and in those matches, the Galaxy are scoring an average of 2 goals every 90 minutes. When Boateng doesn't start, the Galaxy are only managing a paltry 0.3 goals every 90 minutes. The Galaxy have had a myriad great stars in their history, and it looks like this Boateng could be writing himself a page among the legends. He's certainly a dangerous one, and should start today against Orlando.
In addition to Boateng, Gyasi Zardes is a familiar face that always seems to be a threat to score any time he appears in a Galaxy match. And there has been something of a changing of the guard in goal for the Galaxy. We have been used to seeing Brian Rowe between the pipes for today's visitors, but Clement Diop is now the leading keeper for LA.
As for Orlando City, this game is likely going to see them without two familiar faces in the lineup. The special MLS Disciplinary Committee decided to issue a one-match suspension against Matias Perez-Garcia for "violent conduct" during last week's match, so he is definitely not playing. The "violent conduct" amounted to Garcia brushing Felipe's face with his boot while the two were both rolling around in agony on the pitch after a collision. At the time there was no protest or reaction by the player involved or any of his Red Bulls teammates, so all I can deduce is that the player's wife or girlfriend made an impassioned plea to the disciplinary committee on behalf of her harshly abused honey that made them decide a suspension was in order. And last week's birthday boy, Antonio Nocerino, will likely be out again with the calf injury that he suffered against the New York Red Bulls.
Scott Sutter should make his first start for Orlando City today, and we will also see Jonathan Spector, who is quickly becoming one of Joe Bendik's favorite teammates, especially after his dramatic kick save to prevent a goal and preserve the clean sheet last week. And the dangerous trio of Giles Barnes, Carlos Rivas, and Cyle Larin should be starting at the pointy end of the formation. I'm hopeful that Barnes and Rivas can open their accounts for the season soon, as they have both had deserving chances so far that have been denied by the soccer gods and opposing defenses.
For the fourth home match of the season, I think the number four is going to be prominent again. I predict that Joe Bendik is going to have four saves en route to Orlando City's fourth win of the season, and that four different players for the Lions will get goals today in a 4 - 1 victory.
What about you? Do you think Orlando City will successfully defend their house yet again? Do you predict a high scoring game or will it be a tough defensive match that sees one team grind out a hard-earned victory? Will Cyle Larin score another goal today, or will someone else play the hero? Let me know in the comments below!