Recap Last Match
I hope that James O'Connor learned a valuable lesson from last week's inexcusable loss at RSL. The lesson is how to step on the throat of a struggling opponent and crush the life from them before they can get any hope in the match. Coach O'Connor left one of his best centerback options in Orlando "for rest" and put two of his most dangerous starters on the bench to start the game "for rest." He also put the league's most dynamic twelfth man in the Starting XI in the form of Chris Mueller. I started the season screaming for Mueller to be in the Starting XI all the time, but this year his performance as a starter vs. a sub is dramatic.
Of the six games he has appeared in, Mueller has played 236 minutes as starter, with one goal and no assists, for a 0.38 scoring plays/90 average. In the three matches where he has played as a sub, Mueller has played a total of 52 minutes with one goal and one assist. That means he is on pace to be involved with scoring plays at a rate of 3.46 scoring plays/90. The bottom line is that at this stage of his career (or on this team) he is a much more effective sub to come in at or beyond the 60-minute mark than he is to start matches.
Mueller's style of play is a main reason. When Mueller goes on the pitch there is no warm-up. He doesn't have to play himself into a match. He is at the redline from the moment his foot hits the grass, and that means he puts a lot of stress on the tired legs of defenders who have been running up and down the pitch for 60, 70, or 80 minutes. Mueller also has a high soccer IQ and he is an unselfish player. That lets him read the pitch and understand when there is a better option than himself. And after some encouragement from Nani, Mueller is starting to develop more of a striker's instinct to go for goal without hesitating so much.
I do not question that Coach O'Connor needs to find ways to rest his players. But I think he needs to be more creative. Instead of resting players by starting them on the bench, rest them by pulling them out at halftime. If you have dynamic players like Dom Dwyer and Nani (who are becoming a very reliable scoring combination for the team) you need them in the match at kickoff to try to score some first half goals. OCSC is very thin in terms of how many reliable starters we have, and every single one of the best Starting XI players that is healthy needs to take the pitch to begin a match, no questions asked. The only time they should be out of the Starting XI is if they are too injured to even be in the 18. Until we get more depth on this team, we are not good enough to try being cute or fancy or clever when it comes to shuffling around the Starting XI that scores first half goals and can get us to the halftime break with a lead.
Orlando and Vancouver Team Comparisons
Vancouver was winless until their midweek match this week. Then they hosted league-leading LAFC and they gutted out a 1-0 victory at BC Place. In many ways I think Bob Bradley's players looked past Vancouver in the same way that I think James O'Connor played against RSL's record and not their quality last week. I hope that both the loss at RSL and the realization that Vancouver can beat the league leaders will combine for the wakeup call that our coaches and players need to give Saturday's game all the seriousness and attention it deserves.
There are two more factors that give this match special significance. The first is the return of two former Orlando City players on the Whitecaps squad: Victor “PC” Giro and Scott Sutter. The second is that in the all-time series Orlando City has never beaten Vancouver. The record is 0-3-1 all time, with Vancouver scoring 10 goals in the previous four contests while Orlando City has only scored five.
From the dispatches during the week and press reports, it sounds like Lamine Sane may be close to returning to action—we finally learned midweek that he had not traveled to Utah because of a calf strain and not simply just “for rest” as the reason was given on match day. However, both Carlos Ascues and Alex de John are not yet back into full training coming off their recent injuries.
Vancouver Whitecaps Season to Date
|Goals Scored||6||Goals Allowed||10|
|Shots||55||Shots on Target||24|
Vancouver Whitecaps Players to Watch
|Scoring Leader:||Six players tied||1|
Victor Giro (PC)|
|Shot Leader:||Hwang In-Beom||15|
|Passing Leader:||Russell Teibert||88.3%|
|WSC* Rating:||Ali Adnan||7.09|
*WhoScored.com player rating
Orlando City Season to Date
|Goals Scored||11||Goals Allowed||13|
|Shots||54||Shots on Target||28|
Orlando City Players to Watch
|Scoring Leader:||Dom Dwyer|
|Assist Leader:||João Moutinho||3|
|Shot Leader:||Dom Dwyer||24|
|Passing Leader:||Sebastián Méndez||86.7%|
*WhoScored.com player rating
Starting XI Prediction
Whether coach decides to follow my lineup suggestion or not, let’s hope that the lineup he throws out there can bring us 3 huge points at home!
Two weeks ago I predicted a win against Colorado and Orlando City won. Last week I predicted a win against RSL and Orlando City lost. The 2019 team is struggling early in the season more than the 2018 team did, but they are showing more toughness and more ability to learn from mistakes than last year's team did after the wheels started falling off. Therefore I am going to keep my prediction streak going and say I think Orlando City will win this match by the tally of 3 - 1. Orlando City has to get its first win in the series with Vancouver someday, and it might as well be today.
What are your thoughts? Do you think Orlando City will bounce back this week, or do you think they will give away points at home again? Let me know in the comments below!