On Sunday Orlando City returns home to face the New York Red Bulls and a familiar face, as Aurelien Collin is with the team. Collin is recovering from a quad injury, and he is listed as probable for the match. Earlier this week, Jesse Marsch did confirm that Collin will be available to put in the starting lineup the the visitors.
Coming into the match, Orlando City and the Red Bulls are separated by a point on the table, with the Red Bulls carrying a 2 - 2 - 1 record (7 points, 5 goals scored, 8 goals allowed) and Orlando City having a 2 - 1 - 0 record (6 points, 3 goals scored, 3 goals allowed). Also Orlando City is undefeated at home so far in the young season, while the Red Bulls are 1 - 2 on the road so far, defeating Atlanta United 2 - 1 in the season opener, and then losing at Seattle 3 - 1 and at Houston 4 - 1 in their most recent two away outings.
Players to Watch
For the visitors, there are always names that give opposing fans ulcers. Of course Orlando City fans are very familiar with the very physical and energetic defensive work put in by Aurelien Collin. Every attack that comes to his side of the pitch will be met by a French blanket of a defender that is anything but warm and fuzzy--more like all elbows and knees and hip checks and physical play that always rides the envelope of forcing the ref to reach for his pocket.
And in terms of scoring threats, there are two big names in the starting lineup that should make opposing fans wary. Bradley Wright-Phillips is usually one of the leading scorers in MLS, and he has been a thorn in the side of Orlando City fans nearly every time the two teams have met. And one of the primary playmakers on the team is USMNT regular Sacha Kljestan in the midfield.
For our home side, we know the usual cast of characters. Kaka is still out nursing his hamstring injury suffered in the early minutes of the season opener (though Coach Jason Kreis indicated the superstar was back to doing basic exercises in training this week), and defender Jose Aja, who had to leave the match in Columbus, is now out two to four weeks with a hamstring injury of his own. The Lions have acquired the rights to Luis Gil from RSL in a season-long loan from LigaMX side Queretaro, a move which reunites him with coach Jason Kreis. It's uncertain if Gil will immediately be in the starting XI or in the 18 for the match, but we all saw how new Lion Giles Barnes made an immediate impact in the season opener just days after he had arrived from Vancouver, so it's not out of the question we could see Gil on the pitch this weekend in a midfield role, helping to create chances for Cyle Larin, Carlos Rivas, and other scoring threats on the team.
It's likely that Tommy Redding will take a place in the Starting XI on the back line with Jose Aja out. Even though Redding is young, he has youth, energy, and speed, and he was someone that was always a handful for attacking players from opposing teams to get past last year. And then of course there is the partnership up top that has proven a potent scoring threat, with Carlos Rivas and Cyle Larin working very well together to put balls in the back of the opposing team's net. Every time they take the pitch, I expect to see Rivas finally get his first goal of the season, and it feels more like a question of just when that's going to happen, especially when the pair can be fed by playmakers like Giles Barnes, MPG, and now Luis Gil from the midfield line.
I know that the Lions stumbled last time out and we also lost one of our starting defenders in Jose Aja; however, I am thinking the energy of the home crowd will boost the confidence of the team and I hope it will shake the resolve of the visitors. With that in mind, I'm going to predict a 3 - 1 victory for Orlando City, with multiple Lions scoring goals.
What about you? What are your thoughts on the match tomorrow? Do you think Luis Gil will see some minutes for the team, and will he be a starter or will he come off the bench as a substitute? Will the home environment prove to be good luck for Orlando City, or will the Red Bulls be able to get a result on the road? Let me know in the comments below!