Happy Independence Day weekend! The long weekend will be capped off on Monday night by fireworks in the skies and on the pitch, as Orlando City's MLS team travels to the Lone Star State to take on Western Conference side Dallas FC. On paper the match already looked like a big challenge, since Dallas has yet to lose at home on the season and Orlando City has only won a single match on the road. Now the test looms even tougher with the recent injury to Rafael Ramos and the departure of Adrian Winter from the team. Nonetheless the match must be played, and results in MLS continue to be surprising in terms of proving parity in the league.
Players to Watch
Tesho Akindele and Michael Barrios lead FC Dallas with 5 goals each on the season, and Mauro Diaz leads the home team with 7 assists on the season. In goal, Chris Seitz has 4 clean sheets on the season and has made 38 saves from 53 shots faced. As a team, Dallas have scored 26 goals and given up 24, with a goal differential of +2.
For Orlando City, Cyle Larin leads the team with 8 goals, while Kaka and Kevin Molino each have 5 assists on the season to lead the team. Goalkeeper "Super Joe" Bendik has just a single shutout, and he has made 51 saves from 78 shots faced. As a team, Orlando City have scored 28 goals and given up 25, for a +3 goal differential.
It's no surprise to long-time fans and observers of Orlando City that the defense is still a bit shaky, as evidenced by the high number of shots that Bendik has had to face. In fact, 78 ties him with Nick Romando (RSL), Steve Clark (CLB), and Andre Blake (PHI) for the second most shots faced by any keeper in MLS to this point of the season. Only Vancouver's David Ousted has had to face more shots this season (93). If my phone rings this weekend with someone from the Orlando City front office asking me what we need from the midseason transfer window, I would recommend going after better holding midfielders and defenders to reduce the number of shots that opponents can make. Of course, I'm not holding my breath for that call...
I really hate to do this, but I'm going to have to predict against my team in this match. The record of 6 - 0 - 3 that Dallas has at home is balanced against Orlando City's 1 - 3 - 2 record on the road. And without Winter on the team and with Ramos injured, it's going to be an incredible ask for the team to take three points on the road. I'm going to predict a 3 - 2 victory for the home team. I hope I am wrong, and I hope that playing against his old team will inspire Brek Shea to have his best game since he's been wearing the Orlando City crest. With Winter gone, we are going to need someone to step up into the role of endless energy to chase the ball all over the pitch and get involved in every push forward and build-up towards a shot.
What about you? What do you expect to see on Monday night for the match? Do you expect to see someone step up into the role that Adrian Winter had on the team, and if so whom do you think that will be? Let me know in the comments below!