OK, I am going to make this a quick one. RSL is coming off a tough match at home in CCL action, but if they can replicate that performance it will be another season opener in which they can get a result. RSL hasn’t lost an opening day match since 2009 and have only lost twice on the opening weekend of action. The biggest question on Sunday will be does RSL build off that match and stick with a similar lineup or do they make some changes to get guys who battled hard and many of whom have been sick in the last week some rest? Listen the start of the season is going to be huge for RSL so I expect that if healthy we see a very similar lineup as we did on Wednesday night as the extra day off probably was very helpful.
It is hard for me to comment too much on Orlando as I only saw a few minutes of their preseason matches, but we can talk about what we know when it comes to them. Kaka is the motor that makes them tick, Cyle Larin proved a serious threat last year in his Rookie of the Year campaign with 17 goals, but beyond those two Orlando City fell off in a hurry. Kaka had 9 goals and 7 assists, so over half of their offense (26 of 46 goals) came from those two players, only Bryan Rochez, who had 3 goals, was able to score more than 2 goals last year.
When the two sides faced off last season it ended in a 1-1 draw in a match that saw Kaka get a red card in the 45th minute. It was a night that saw RSL take 23 shots, and despite the man advantage for the entire second half they were unable to get a second goal to secure the win.
So what will this seasons matchup hold?
I think Jeff Cassar is key to get off to a good start and with his team looking very good in their midweek match I don’t expect many changes to the lineup (barring illnesses or injury):
Beltran- Olave – Glad – Wingert
Beckerman – Sunny – Morales
Martinez – Movsisyan – Plata
The ding that Maund took in the final minutes looked nasty and while it didn’t appear he had a concussion, that knot was nasty looking so resting him may not be a bad thing at all.
The difference of the formations could be a real test as how does the 4-3-3 matchup against a 4-5-1? Wide play from the backline could be very important and we saw that Wingert and Beltran were able to get forward to support the attacking effort and the incredible high pressure RSL used against Tigres would be fun to see again. I do think the new RSL attacking unit will cause issues for a backline that gave up 56 goals last year and granted the were better at home giving up just 19, that is still over 1 per match at home, something RSL will need to take advantage of.
Orlando scored a good number of goals this preseason from set pieces, something RSL has struggled with, so ensuring their marking will be a key for every RSL player as the size advantage will go to Orlando with guys like Shea (6’3″), Collin (6’2″), Hines (6’2″), and Larin (6’2″). While Orlando finished their preseason with a friendly match against Brazillian side Esporte Clube Bahia, there is no way to compare the preseason with having two real matches against a very good Tigres side. If RSL builds on those matches they could not only get a result they should be able to fight for the win, but it will take solid work on both sides of the ball.
So the keys are simple:
- Contain Kaka – everything that Orlando does really flows thru him, make someone else beat you.
- Finish Chances – In both matches against Tigres the finishing simply wasn’t there, time for Yura to deliver.
- No mistakes on set pieces – With a size disadvantage RSL will need to be smart in their marking and not allow for any secondary opportunities.
If RSL can do those things a result is in the cards. I am going to pick a 2-1 RSL win in a tough fought match but the edge is simply in being in better form from real matches.
That’s How I See It
Edit – late breaking news this morning is that Kaka will miss the match with and injury, this clearly favors RSL but also creates an issue of where will Orlando focus their attack, one has to believe that becomes Kevin Molino, who has recovered from missing almost all of last year with a ACL injury. If his fitness is still an issue then I expect Adrian Winter who Orlando signed in the summer transfer window last year will have to try to fill the role of Kaka.
With this the #1 key changes, I think given the spring weather in Orlando that RSL should deploy the high press tactic they played in the second leg against Tigres on Wednesday night. It could lead to some very tired players but when facing a team missing their best player, will there ever be a better chance to “kick them while they are down”?