Orlando City will try to make it two wins in a row as they host the Portland Timbers. OCSC finally seemed to get their collective act together. Meanwhile, Portland is still seeking their first win of the young season. Both teams are going to be highly motivated to get the full points from the match in order to encourage their fan bases that their season is not going to be mired in mediocrity as it barely begins.
- Keep a Wide Formation - Coach Jason Kreis favors the 4-4-2 diamond formation, which is a compact formation that is designed to control the middle of the pitch. But Orlando City Stadium has one of the widest pitches in MLS and that means well-organized teams can exploit the compact formation to push the ball back down the pitch on the sides in counter-attacks or traditional build-ups. When Orlando City fell back into a 4-2-3-1 formation in the second half of last week's match against the New York Red Bulls, the home side was able to easily control the pitch and dominate both possession and scoring.
- Attack the Goal - Portland has suffered extreme bouts of defensive disorganization in the early matches of the season. They have given up nine goals through four matches, which ties them for the most goals given up in the Western Conference (with Sporting KC, Minnesota United FC, and Real Salt Lake). Portland has also had difficulty scoring on the season. They have only four goals scored so far, which is the fourth lowest total in all of MLS (Seattle Sounders FC 0, Philadelphia Union 2, Toronto FC 3). Last week Orlando City scored four goals, with Dom Dwyer scoring a brace, and many of the new faces on the club involved in assists or scoring: Sacha Kljestan, Josue Colman, Mohamed El-Munir, and Justin Meram. Orlando City is still -2 on goal differential for the season, so a persistent attack could help raise the team to the plus side of that equation.
- Stay Attentive on Defense - Just because Portland has been struggling to score this season doesn't mean the back line can take a snooze. Orlando City is known across the league for having mental lapses on defense and inviting the other team to take easy shots on an unprotected goal. As a team looking for its first win, Portland is going to be hungry to pounce on any opportunity, and Orlando City should treat any opponent as though they are as dangerous as Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic with the ball at their feet. Don't take any plays off on defense and keep some defenders between Joe Bendik and the ball at all times.
- Find the Open Space - Portland has had success in scoring this season when they have been able to cause enough chaos going forward that the defense loses track of a green shirt in space. This can happen when Portland overloads one side of the pitch and has another attacker out on the weak side. As the defense gravitates toward the more numerous side, a quick switch of the field can leave the weak-side attacker with a one-on-one chance against the keeper.
- Get the Ball to Blanco - There's a reason the Timbers have given the number 10 to Sebastian Blanco this season. He is the leading scorer for the team so far, and he has shown the ability to score from range and also to score up close. Often Blanco is the player that drifts out to the weak side of the pitch and finds space when the defense closes down on his teammates. If Portland can force Orlando City's defense into committing this same mistake, they should be able to find some success.
- The Counter is Your Friend - Portland's strikers contribute a lot on defense, which means they are often in a prime position to steal the ball from opposing attackers and start counter-attacks. Orlando City's midfielders and back line will need to be especially attentive to challenges on tackles and interceptions when bringing the ball up the pitch.
- Mis-hit Clearances - If Orlando City has a historic reputation for making bonehead plays around their own goal, then Portland has distilled and synthesized that incompetence to a fine art during the beginning of this season. They have given up most of their goals by failing to clear balls after the initial attack by the opponent, and allowing opposing attackers to have second- and third-chance strikes on their goal. Orlando City should be ready to pounce on these chances and be sure they have numbers forward on attacks so that someone else can clean up the rebound or deflection from a missed first chance.
What do you think the keys will be for Orlando City to take their second win in a row this weekend? What types of tactics do you expect Portland to exploit to try to score against the Lions? Let me know in the comments below!