OCSC vs Revs Review and vs Dallas Preview

Orlando City vs. New England - Review

It only took 31 matches, but Orlando City looked like they might be onto something in tinkering with the lineup. As a fairly new fan of the sport, I tend to take a rather binary view of players on a roster--either they are effective or ineffective, and I don't always think of how a player might be used in a different position on the pitch to better effect. Fortunately, I don't actually have the power to make personnel decisions. Otherwise, we all would have missed out on seeing what happens when you move a wily veteran from the fulcrum of the offense up to the pointy end.

I owe Kaka an apology for not being more creative in my thinking. I stand by my previous statements that at the 10 position his passes are disrupted too much and the ball gets stolen too much. But that's because our offense has been so anemic that every other team in the league game plans against Orlando City to collapse down on Kaka when his teammates send him the ball in the middle and to smother Cyle Larin when he gets the ball up top. Up until the summer transfer window, when you take away those two players you effectively hamstring the entire Orlando City attack. And even after the transfer window, as long as the club insisted on playing Kaka in the middle you could still disrupt attacks before they started by studying Kaka's tendencies and getting between him and the attempted receiver of his passes.

The more I reflect on this, the more I blame the other players for this. I think that three years into MLS, Kaka's teammates still believe they have to send the ball through the 10 position to make anything happenwhen he plays there. I don't think the Brazilian's ego gets bruised when he doesn't touch the ball on a play, and I think he cares more about helping the team win than any individual glory at this point in his career. I don't know if the player suggested the move to the coach, or if the coaches suggested the move to the team, but pushing Kaka up to the top of the formation takes a lot of defensive pressure away from him and gives him more freedom to be both a creator and finisher. Let's see more of this, please!

The midweek match was historic in more ways than one:

  • Antonio Nocerino and Yoshimar Yotun each scored their first goals for Orlando City. 
  • Richie Laryea registered the first assist of his MLS career on the late Yotun goal. 
  • The late goal from Dom Dwyer marked his first goal for Orlando City at the home stadium. 
  • The five goal margin of victory was the biggest since the team joined MLS.
  • The six-goal performance was the highest scoring total since the team joined MLS.

I tweeted a truncated good, bad, and ugly recap the other night. As I said then the only ugly thing I could find was having an Oprah wannabe wearing the ref's uniform in the middle. But instead of giving away prizes to the studio audience, the ref was handing out cards to everyone who had a pulse on the pitch. The VAR called for the review on the play that earned Xavier Kouassi's red card. Talk about a hard month--that was Kouassi's second sending off in fourteen days. The first time was in the 7 - 0 loss at Atlanta on September 13.

Orlando City vs. Dallas - Preview and Predictions

Today Orlando City will host Dallas FC in a must-win match for the home side to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. Going into the match Orlando City sits in 9th place with a maximum possible 47 points on the season. Four of the six Eastern Conference spots are already clinched, with everyone else except DC United still fighting for the final two spots. In reality, Orlando City cannot make the playoffs without help, as the Red Bulls and Columbus are both above the line (Columbus is currently on 47 points and NYRB is on 43). If Columbus can manage one point in the final three matches and the Red Bulls can get five points in four matches, then it doesn't matter how well Orlando City finishes the season.

FC Dallas has been on a similar trajectory to Orlando City, though not as dramatic a swing in fortunes. At one time Dallas sat atop the Western Conference table, but they have been in a tailspin of futility lately and have fallen to sixth place. However, Orlando City seems to be stumbling and fumbling its way out of its funk over the past few matches--albeit likely too late to make the playoffs this season--registering two wins in the last 6 games. Meanwhile, FC Dallas has won only a single match in the last six and is on a streak of five straight road losses.

Players to Watch

For the visitors, Maximiliano Urruti leads the team with 12 goals and five assists. He is followed by Roland Lamah with nine goals and three assists, while Tesho Akindele has added four goals. But perhaps the most important player for Orlando to slow down on Saturday will be Michael Barrios. He has only scored two goals, but he has registered a staggering 14 assists on the season, making him far and away the most important playmaker on the team. Mauro Diaz has only one goal, but is second in assists on the team with six, and Urruti's five assists are good for third on the team. 

Orlando City's top scorers continue to be the trio of Cyle Larin (12 goals and three assists), Kaka (six goals and five assists), and Carlos Rivas (five goals and five assists). Kaka and Rivas share the assist lead in the team, while they are followed closely by Scott Sutter (one goal and four assists) and Dom Dwyer (three goals and four assists).

Prediction

I think we may see the duo of Larin and Dwyer or Larin and Rivas at the pointy end of the formation today, and I'm not sure how many minutes Kaka will see after his two-goal performance in the midweek match. I'm hoping that the team's success on Wednesday will instill them with some enthusiasm and confidence, and that we will see another strong outing from the team. We saw a similar turn-around by the Orlando Pride over the last two months after a breakout match, and that form has pushed the ladies into the playoffs. Maybe the same will happen for City and help them at least keep their hopes for the post season alive another week. I'm going to be an optimist and call for that to happen. As such, I'll predict a 3 - 1 win for Orlando City.

What do you think of today's match? Do you believe Orlando City can build off of their midweek performance, or do you think the club simply pulled a rabbit out of a hat for one perfect night and will descend back to mediocrity today? Let me know in the comments below! 

Portland vs. OCSC: Previews and Predictions

One match is an aberration. Two matches is a direction. If Orlando City can get a result in three straight road matches, I will feel confident calling it a trend. 

In the 2 - 0 win over DC United and the 3 - 3 draw at Atlanta United, Orlando City's midseason roster moves seem to be coming to some fruition. Dom Dwyer and Cyle Larin have combined on goals, and Yoshimar Yotun is providing assists to help set up scoring. Dillon Powers also seems to be getting more comfortable with his new teammates and is playing well with Orlando City. 

Now Orlando City has to travel all the way across the country and play at Portland, which has one of the most passionate fan bases in the MLS and boasts a player on a historic hot streak in Diego Valeri. The fan in me clings to even the faintest glimmer of hope as long as the team is not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. Right now they are on 35 points with 5 matches left, with a potential point total of 50. At the moment 3rd place Chicago is on 48 points, so there is room for Orlando City to climb above the red line (though they will need help from other teams above them failing to score points in the last month of the season).

The pragmatist in me realizes that with five matches left in the season it's unrealistic to expect that the team will recover from the hole they dug themselves with lackluster play and lazy performances through the heart of the season. While I don't think a draw helps them in this game, a draw is always a good road result in MLS and it's unrealistic to expect more from Sunday night's match.

Players to Watch

Portland features a number of potent strikers and playmakers. Diego Valeri leads the team with 18 goals and nine assists, and he set a new MLS record by scoring in his eighth consecutive match last weekend. He and the hometown fans will be wanting that streak to be extended at home so they can celebrate a new record total on the home pitch. Fanendo Adi has 10 goals and three assists on the season, and Caleb Porter said during the week that Adi would return to training on Friday and may be available to play some minutes from the bench after missing six straight matches with an injury. In addition, Sebastian Blanco has five goals and seven assists on the season, Darlington Nagbe has three goals and four assists, and David Guzman (listed as questionable with a quad injury) has added one goal along with six assists.

For much of the season, Orlando City was a one-trick pony, with most of the scoring coming from the foot, head, or chest of Cyle Larin (12 goals and two assists) with a few goals added by Carlos Rivas (five goals and five assists) and Kaka (four goals and five assists). Other than these, Giles Barnes (three goals and two assists), and Dom Dwyer (two goals and two assists) are the only other active multi-goal scorers on the roster. But as stated earlier, Yoshi Yotun and Dillon Powers are starting to show their quality in matches and I hope the team will be able to maintain the chemistry they have developed during the off-season. My one fear going forward is knowing that Jason Kreis still has a number of roster moves he needs to make in the off-season to continue building a team that will best execute his game plan and be able to implement his strategic vision successfully. If this means losing some key players or having a large number of roster changes between November and March, I am concerned with seeing another prolonged period of adjustment at the beginning of next season before the team starts playing as a cohesive unit.

Prediction

Portland has played tough at home. They only have two home losses on the season. On the other hand, they have also struggled to win consistently at home, with three home wins in a row being their longest such streak of the year. So it's not inconceivable that the Timbers could revert to form and split the points with a visitor at home. Orlando City's improved play in the last two games is encouraging, but I'm not sure it qualifies as a streak just yet that can be counted on to predict future results. Still, I'm going to ignore the pragmatist for today and let hope guide my prediction. That's why I'm predicting a 3 - 2 win today for Orlando City.

What about you--are you encouraged by the better play of the Lions in recent weeks? Do you think Orlando City can get a much-needed road win tonight in Portland? Or do you think the Timbers will defend their home pitch against the visitors tonight? Let me know in the comments below!

Pride vs. Thorns: Previews and Predictions

The Orlando Pride will play their final home match of the regular season on Saturday as they host the Portland Thorns. The stakes are high for the home team: a win and they guarantee they are in the playoffs, as Seattle sits five points out of playoff position with two matches left to play going into the weekend. If the Pride can keep that gap more than three points by the end of the weekend, there is no way for any team to knock them from the post season. And Portland has already clinched a playoff spot. Casual fans might be tempted to hope that Portland would use the fact that they have locked up a playoff spot as an occasion to rest key players for this match, but I don't think that's likely to happen for three important reasons.

The first reason is that Portland can still wind up winning the NWSL Shield for the most points in the league if they win out and get some help from the North Carolina Courage dropping some points. The second reason is that the Thorns have the opportunity to help their keeper, Adrianna Franch, set a record for most clean sheets in a season. The third reason is one of the standout players for the national team: Tobin Heath. Heath has been out of the Portland lineup for most of the season recovering from a back injury, but she played in the recent USWNT match against New Zealand and if she is healthy I have to believe she will want to play in the final two regular season matches to get more minutes under her belt before the playoffs.

So the match should be very entertaining, as it pits two excellent teams against each other, both of whom are extremely motivated to try to take all three points. For Portland, they hope it will be a chance to get to know the pitch at Orlando City Stadium before they would like to return on October 14 to play in the NWSL Final. For the Pride, they hope to deliver their fans the first playoff berth in team history and defend their fortress in their final home match of the season.

Players to Watch

If you want to see some star power, this will be a great match to watch. There will be plenty of great stars on both teams.

Portland brings a number of dynamic players to the match, befitting of a team that sits a mere two points out of first place in the league. Leading the scoring for Portland is Christine Sinclair, who has 8 goals on the season so far. Close behind her are Nadia Nadim and Hayley Raso, who each have 5 goals and 3 assists. Raso also bears watching as a physical player, for she is among the league leaders in yellow card accumulation, with 5 to her name on the season so far. Meghan Klingenberg leads Portland in assists on the season with 6 to her credit. And then of course there is the always dangerous Tobin Heath, who is one of the most dynamic players in the league when she is healthy. As a fan of the USWNT, I hope her injury troubles are behind her. But if she feels like she's not quite ready to take the pitch to start the match tomorrow I certainly won't shed any tears. And then there is Adrianna Franch. The Thorns goalkeeper tied the league record of 10 clean sheets in Week 20, and her team would love to help her set a new record before the end of the season. The reason for such a high total of clean sheets: in 21 matches she and her defense have only allowed 18 goals all season, the second lowest total in the NWSL.

But the ladies in purple may have a thing or two to say about that. Orlando's roster of extreme firepower should be no surprise to anyone. Of course leading the way are the dynamic duo of Marta and Alex Morgan. Marta leads the team with 12 goals and 6 assists, while Morgan has added 9 goals and 3 assists of her own in only 10 league starts this season. Between the fact that those two don't melt in the heat and their M & M initials, there ought to be some clever two-pole or TIFO ideas that fans could create if the team is fortunate enough to play in the finals at home next month. Of course Tom Sermanni's team is filled with great talent up and down the entire roster. Camila has 4 goals and 5 assists on the season, and Chioma Ubogagu has added 4 goals of her own to go with 2 assists. All in all, 11 different Pride players have found the back of the net this season, while 11 more have registered assists. That puts the Orlando Pride at the very top of the NWSL in both goals (42) and assists (28) on the season. 

Prediction

It's the NWSL Match of the Week on Lifetime Network, and it will kick off in the hottest part of the afternoon at 4pm. Of course tomorrow the weather forecasters call for rain to start before dawn and predict a higher than average chance of rain all day up until 5pm. If anything like that comes to pass, we could see sauna-like conditions on the pitch, which one hopes would favor the home side. As I mentioned before, both teams have strong motivation to try to win this match, and you have two of the strongest sides in the league squaring off. I am probably guaranteeing a close match by saying this, but I am feeling very confident in our ladies. I am going to predict that the Orlando Pride stamp their authority on this match and win big, 4 - 1.

What is your prediction on the match? Do you think the Pride will earn a big win, or do you think Portland's stingy defense will push the playoff race to the final match of the regular season for the Pride? Let me know in the comments below!

Atlanta vs. OCSC: Previews and Predictions

We have six games left, we're seven points out of the playoffs, we have a whole mess of starters unavailable, it's an afternoon match, and we're wearing sunglasses...

Unfortunately, we are not in the middle of the Blues Brothers film, so I hold no sense of Hollywood optimism that Orlando City will be able to find another bit of magic like they did in DC last week to continue giving fans a flicker of hope that they can make the playoffs this season.

Atlanta comes into the match on very good form, having won two in a row and taking a result in five of their last six matches. That is one reason why they are above the line and six points ahead of any team that could threaten their standings in the playoffs. Another reason is the fact that they are scoring goals at a tremendous clip. If memory serves the midweek 7 - 0 victory over New England matches two MLS records--for margin of victory and for goals scored in a match. The scoring in that game brings Atlanta's season total to 54 goals, with a +22 goal differential. Those numbers are both good for second in MLS behind Toronto FC, which is the only team in the league who has secured a playoff spot. Another impressive feat is that Atlanta has played only 26 matches, the fewest number of matches played in the league.

Meanwhile, Orlando City is entering an off season that will mean a lot of soul searching is needed. Less than three years Orlando City announced with much fanfare the signing of Kaka as the first piece and central cog for their Orlando City side. As of this season, Orlando City has managed only two wins when the one time FIFA Ballon d'Or winner has started. He shows flashes of brilliance, but he more often gives away bad passes or has the ball stolen from his feet these days. It seems obvious that he is well beyond his prime and his role is best suited for someone coming off the bench, and he no longer deserves nor should command the level of salary he was paid when he first signed with the club.

I don't think there's a case that the team hasn't been trying hard, but I do think that there's still a bit of over-reliance by the other players on Kaka as the primary playmaker on the team, and because they try to feed the ball through him the team's attacks get disrupted too much. As much as I like Kaka as a player and as wonderful as he seems to be off the pitch and in the locker room as a leader for the team, I think it's time for the team to have a serious discussion about moving him off the roster and into the front office if he still wants to maintain a role with the club. Otherwise, it might be time to thank him for his contributions here in Orlando and let him return to his family in Brazil. 

Obviously, then, the team would need to go out and find a new primary playmaker, either by signing one or finding one somewhere within the organization. I'm certain that I am in the minority within the fanbase to suggest such a dramatic change in the team, but the results don't lie. The best period for the team this season was the opening stretch of matches when Kaka was unavailable due to injury, and the most recent win against DC also came when Kaka started the match on the bench, and the team was unable to put any goals on the board after he came into the game. It's time for fans to grow up and realize that blind loyalty to a player is irrelevant and only the results for the crest matter. When someone becomes a liability to getting results, it's time for the club to show them the door and make room for someone who is going to help the team win.

Getting back to today's match, one bit of good news is that Jonathan Spector had a full week of training and could be available for selection today, according to news reports. The team will need its best defenders on the pitch to slow down Atlanta's potent attack. Another bit of good news is that Dom Dwyer and Cyle Larin finally teamed up to create a goal in the win over DC United. That's something Orlando City fans have hoped to see, and it would be wonderful to see more of that blossoming partnership in the match today in Atlanta.

Balancing that good news are the suspensions. Kaka, Seb Hines, and Servando Carrasco are all suspended for the match today. Meanwhile, Atlanta United also has two players out. Leandro Gonzalez Pirez is out on suspension and Greg Garza is out with an injury. 

Still, I'm not sold that Orlando City has figured out their problems yet, and I can't predict a victory with any confidence. Unfortunately I have to say I think Atlanta will win this one 3 - 1, which will all but eliminate Orlando City from playoff contention.

What are your thoughts on the match? Do you think Orlando City will be able to string together a second victory in a row? Or do you expect that Wednesday night's victory for Atlanta is a signal they have reached peak form just in time to charge into the playoffs? Let me know in the comments below!

Irma Week Potpourri

It's been an unusual week in Lion's Teeth HQ to be sure with some hopes deferred, some unexpected disappointment revealed, and a lady named Irma throwing a heavy dose of chaos into everything around the city.

Pride Draw with Reign

The Orlando Pride played a home match on Thursday against Seattle. It was a match that was recheduled with the impending approach of Hurricane Irma over the weekend. The Pride could have clinched a playoff spot in the match with an outright win, but a loss would have all but eliminated Seattle from any chance of making the post season. Seattle played with their characteristic physical style, smothering Marta to try to cut off her passing lanes and limiting the five time FIFA Player of the Year to only a single shot all night. The Reign also picked up three yellow cards for hard fouls against the Pride, and several of the more prominent players whined and cried over every call and took every opportunity to waste time during the match.

The match reached the full 90 minutes without any scores, but in the 4+ minutes of stoppage time all the fireworks happened. In the 92nd minute Alex Morgan put a well-aimed wide-angle shot from the left side toward the far side netting. The ball passed just beyond the reach of Seattle goalkeeper Lydia Williams and found the far side netting. But then less than a minute later Seattle's Jessica Fishlock got her head on the ball in the six-yard box and managed to loop it over the outstretched arms of a diving Ashlyn Harris to find the back of the Pride goal and equalized the match.

I credit Seattle with playing very hard to try to save their playoff chances, but there was a tension in the Orlando Pride players that I haven't seen in well over a month. Perhaps there were some distracted thoughts turned toward the coming hurricane--which would be understandable. Perhaps there was tension from being so close to securing the playoffs that they just didn't play with their normal relaxed confidence. And perhaps it was a bit of both and/or maybe some other factors. Whatever the reason, they just were a bit off on the night, and the performance suffered for it. The Pride owned almost all the match stats: leading in shots (20 to 10), shots on goal (5 to 3), corners (13 to 8), crosses (28 to 21), passes and passing accuracy (376 / 77.4% to 358 / 71.8%), possession (51.4% to 48.6%), and clearances (32 to 17). In the deep stats, Seattle did take two of the three categories, winning the battle of Duels (38 to 33) and Tackles (9 to 8). Even with all the other stats piled up against them this was enough to tip the balance of the match back to a draw, which is why I always think that those "heart and hustle" stats of Duels, Tackles, and Clearances are so telling in terms of which team will actually win a game.

The Pride have two more matches left, and if I read the standings correctly a win in either one will guarantee the playoffs, while draws or losses won't outright knock them out depending on what happens with the teams below them on the table. But there will be time enough to worry about that after Irma.


Will Johnson Suspended

The unexpected and sad news around the club this week was the arrest of Will Johnson in connection with domestic violence charges. I am sad for the player's wife and family, and I am genuinely sad for the player himself that he responded with physical force to whatever had transpired previously. My sincere hope is that all the parties involved will receive the counseling and support that they need in this very difficult time. I fully support the decision of the league to suspend any player accused of such conduct, and I hope that whatever decision is ultimately rendered is one that everyone involved considers just and fair. Beyond that, since I know no more of the player or his family than what has been reported in the media I don't feel like I have any place to offer opinions or render judgement.


Hurricane Irma

Just as a PSA, please follow the instructions of authroities in your area. If you have been told to evacuate, I hope you will get out of the area or go to a designated shelter. If you don't want to be alone, I advise going to a shelter or staying with a friend or family member. And if you just feel restless and helpless to do anything to stop the storm, then I would offer a suggestion--relocate to a shelter and offer to help the staff and volunteers there to do what needs doing. There will be plenty of scared and panicked people at shelters, and if you can offer a smile and some friendly words and perhaps a conversation about their favorite local soccer team it may just ease their minds and make enduring the storm more bearable for those people. My old house may suffer damage but that can be replaced. My friends and my family members cannot be replaced, and neither can yours. Remember what's important and do the best you can to be sure those you care about are safe.


DC United vs. OCSC

I'm not sure I'll be able to see this match tonight due to the storm. I am on the volunteer list with the state so I will probably be helping out at one of the local shelters and I don't know if I'll have time to watch the game when it airs. And I'm not really very optimistic about the team's chances. DCU seems to be on a winning streak of late, and the Will Johnson news can't help the morale or focus of the team, not to mention being distracted by thoughts of family or friends left behind while they are on the road. It doesn't even seem worthwhile to predict a score for this one.

A Modest Proposal for the Orlando City Front Office

Summary

There are too many excuses being made for Orlando City's MLS side, and there are too many short-sighted calls by fans for heads to roll from the coaching staff to the roster to the front office. I offer an alternative:

  • Performance based Pay.
  • Allocate the MLS, USL, and NWSL payrolls to the teams in order of best PPG performance.
  • MLS side coach and player leadership should voluntarily swap their paychecks with NWSL counterparts.

The Problem at Hand

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

With these words, Charles Dickens opened his novel, A Tale of Two Cities. However, he might as well have been talking about the 2017 Orlando City Soccer Club's constituent teams. Two of the three teams under the club are meeting the expectations of fans, and one is falling far short. As the season winds down, the USL side OCB is solidly in the playoff hunt, earning results in its last 12 consecutive matches, dating back to June 23. Likewise the Orlando Pride have earned results in six consecutive matches dating back to August 5, and has outright won their last five matches. So for those of us lucky enough to have season tickets for one or both of those teams it certainly feels like it could be the best of times.

Then consider the hapless MLS team. OCSC's MLS side is winless in their last eight matches, and has managed only two wins since the end of April. After the win on April 29, the team was sitting atop the Eastern Conference table. Now the club is sitting 10th on the table and there's no reason to expect that they will be able to avoid falling to the very bottom of the table after facing DC United at RFK Stadium next Saturday night. It certainly can't be anything but the worst of times for fans of the MLS side.

The Fans' Frustration

Many armchair pundits among the fan base, and many other social media outlets are pointing fingers and bellyaching about who is to blame for the problems of the MLS side. Arguments abound over whether the coaching staff is to blame, whether there are problems in the locker room in terms of the tactics or strategy the team should use, or whether there has been so much chaos in the Front Office in terms of people responsible for player personnel that the roster is akin to a mismatched jigsaw puzzle box containing 500 pieces from four different sets. To me, all of that is a waste of time and smacks of nothing but excuses. The club does not need excuses at this point; it needs to make a bold statement that will send a clear message to all the teams in the organization. It can also send a message to every league under the umbrella of US Soccer at the same time if they follow my recommendation for a modest proposal based on the performance of each team.

I call my proposal modest, and when judged by the standard of pure merit and performance it is the very essence of modesty. Since the modern world and the world of professional sport rarely operates on the principles of merit and performance, my proposal would mean defying the league rules of the MLS and the NWSL as well as those of the US Soccer federation. But my proposal just might send the message that the coaches and players of the MLS side need to feel as well as hear in order to quit screwing around and start playing quality football.

A Modest Proposal: Performance-based Pay

My proposal is to assign compensation by team based on each team's performance on the pitch. Thus the entire salary allocation for the MLS side within OCSC would be paid to the team that has the best performance in terms of points per match earned, the salary allocation for the USL side would be paid to the team with the second best performance in terms of points per match earned, and the salary allocation for the NWSL side would be paid to the team with the worst performance of the bunch.

Under this system, for 2017 we would add up all the DP money, Generation Adidas money, Targeted Allocation money, and MLS salary cap money from the OCSC MLS side's roster of 30 players and split it proportionally among the 20 players on the Orlando Pride roster. Likewise, Tom Sermanni and his staff would be paid the salary that is now being drawn by Jason Kreis and his assistants. After all, in a season with only 24 games, it seems pretty apparent that both Marta and Alex Morgan will finish the year with more goals scored than Cyle Larin, the leading scorer on the Orlando City MLS team. So why shouldn't they be rewarded for superior performance?

And on the flip side, of course, the MLS lads would be punished in their wallets. The 30 players on the roster would have to split the NWSL salary cap of $315,000 among them, and no single player on the team could collect more than $41,700 in salary for the season. Similarly, Jason Kreis and his staff would have to learn to live on the salary drawn by Coach Tom Sermanni and his staff.

This season the USL side would be unaffected. The USL has the second highest payroll of the three teams and sits second in terms of the points earned per match played. The Orlando Pride have earned 35 points from 21 matches (1.67 ppm); OCB has earned 36 points from 26 matches (1.38 ppm); and hapless OCSC has earned only 31 points from 27 matches (1.15 ppm).

As fans it is in our nature to want to find and assign blame when we see things going contrary to our wishes. I care not one whit for trying to place blame. I simply want to see performance rewarded and incompetence punished. That's what makes my proposal so modest, logical, and sensible. Unfortunately, the rules governing salaries in the three different leagues that Orlando City's constituent teams are aligned would probably prohibit the team from taking such a sensible approach to address the situation. 

An Appeal to Team Leaders

So I call upon the two main leaders of the MLS side to voluntarily swap salaires with their counterparts on the Orlando Pride. Jason Kreis--I don't want to hear excuses; I demand results. Until you can put your team into the playoffs, I demand that you trade your salary with Tom Sermanni, who has proven he can coach his team to the highest level of performance within the club. And Kaka--I don't care where you used to play or what awards you've won. Until you score more goals and create more assists than anyone on any of the teams in the club, you don't deserve to draw the highest salary. Until you can back up your paycheck with performance that deserves it, I demand that you swap salaries with Marta. Learn to eat a little humble pie until you can whip your teammates into a band of legitimate contenders working in concert like a well-oiled machine.

That is my modest proposal. Those are my demands. Are there any other fans in the Orlando City multiverse who feel the same way I do, or am I simply a lone voice crying in the wilderness, seeking justice in an unjust world? Let me know in the comments below!

Revolution vs. OCSC: Previews and Predictions

It's makeup day. Back in March a spring blizzard kept Orlando City and the New England Revolution from playing as scheduled in Boston. Today that makeup match is rescheduled with both teams having to play during the international break and Orlando City fielding a roster that is missing a number of key players that are out for those call ups and other reasons.

There are a total of five or six normal starters for Orlando City who will be unavailable for the match at New England. Richie Laryea and Jonathan Spector are all still out with injuries suffered in recent matches or on the training ground. Cyle Larin and Yoshimar Yotun are out on International Duty. Cristian Higuita will be suspended due to yellow card accumulation. The wild card is Will Johnson. As reported by the Orlando Sentinel earlier this week, Jason Kreis said that Johnson is still in a lot of pain from his sprained ankle, but he put in a full training session on Wednesday. The decision whether or not to play him will depend partly on his recovery from the last two sessions of the week and partly on whether it is worth jeopardizing a more serious injury to Johnson in the hopes of jump-starting a playoff push.

Players to Watch

The road to the playoffs for Orlando City is all but blocked, and the team will have to nearly win all eight remaining matches to have a chance to finish above the line, but they have not shown any signs that they will be capable of doing so. However, tonight's match may offer fans the chance to see some of the younger and less visible players on the roster and assess their potential for the future. The club released some hints at names that may appear in the 18-man roster for Saturday night earlier this week.

  • Hadji Barry - The player from local NCAA side UCF is on an MLS contract, but has been loaned out to OCB for most of the season. He has played in 13 games and has scored 8 goals. He has speed and agility, and could make an interesting strike partner with Dom Dwyer either as a starter or in relief.
  • Dillon Powers - Powers has appeared only once Orlando City, but he is a five-year MLS veteran and his experience could be pivotal with Yotun out for international duty and Higuita out on suspension.
  • Servando Carrasco - Carrasco has been something of a lost face this season, playing in only 11 matches this season. That is fewer games than any time since he joined the club in the middle of the 2015 campaign. Carrasco does have a goal for Orlando City this season, scored at home against the New York Red Bulls in April.

As for the home side, three key players to watch are Kei Kamara, Juan Agudelo, and Lee Nguyen each have 8 goals, and that accounts for over 60% of the team's total in 2017. Kamara always seems to cause problems for Orlando City, and Nguyen is one of the league's best play makers, able to find the teammate with the best chance to score any time he gets the ball on his feet.

Prediction

Orlando City sits one place above New England on the Eastern Conference table. However, Orlando City has been winless since June 30. New England has lost twice in a row, but that is balanced against three wins in their last six matches. Neither team were originally planning to play this week, and both have some key players out with injury and international duty. The wishful thinking part of my brain would like to think that Orlando City can find a way for all the pieces to click into place the way they seemed to have done for the Pride in recent weeks. But the pragmatist in me says I shouldn't get my hopes up until the team proves they can win. And I'm going to have to listen to that pragmatic side until the team proves me wrong. I'm going with a 2 - 1 victory for New England in this match.

What are your thoughts? Do you think Orlando City can pull out a win today despite the missing players? Or do you think that New England will prevail at home and push Orlando City further down the table? Let me know in the comments below!

Pride vs. Breakers: Previews and Predictions

The Orlando Pride host the Boston Breakers tonight at Orlando City Stadium, looking for their fifth consecutive win as they hope to keep their playoff run unbroken. Alex Morgan has just been named the August player of the month. She has scored in five straight matches and has eight goals in eight matches started so far this season. If she continues on this pace, she will easily score more goals this season than Cyle Larin by the time it's all said and done, and she will do so in fewer than half the games of the Orlando City MLS player. Morgan's game-winning goal in the 87th minute over FC Kansas City was named Goal of the Week in NWSL, and it made history: with that goal, Morgan became the first player in league history to score the game-winning goal in three consecutive matches.

Meanwhile, the Boston Breakers come into the match 9th on the table after suffering three consecutive losses. They have been eliminated from the playoffs after their most recent loss, but it's not uncommon for teams out of the playoff race to take the goal of playing spoiler for the hopes of others. The Pride and Breakers have faced each other twice already this year, with the Pride winning both of those matches. Defeating the same team three times in any season is always a difficult task, which is another reason the home side should be wary going into the match.

Players to Watch

Boston has had some hard luck this season, but that doesn't mean they don't have talented players on their side.

Player NameGoalsAssists
Adriana Leon54
Natasha Dowie42
Rosie White31

Meanwhile, as a team, the Orlando Pride are 2nd in the league in scoring (37 goals) and they lead the league in assists with 25. It's no surprise the names that lead in those categories for the club.

Player NameGoalsAssists
Marta116
Alex Morgan82
Camila44
Jasmyne Spencer34

Prediction

I know I just said that the Orlando Pride cannot take this game for granted, and I am confident that they have reached that combination of team chemistry and focus that will allow them to add yet another win to their season total. They are above the line for the playoffs, but they do not have the luxury of dropping points at this time of the season and let them feel confident they will still reach their goal. With that in mind, I predict the Pride will win this match 3 - 0 and give Ashlyn Harris yet another clean sheet victory.

What about you? Do you think the Pride will be able to win this match, or do you think beating Boston three times in the same season will be too much to ask? Let me know in the comments below.