Orlando City will take the field for the first time as a Major League Soccer club on Friday night when the Lions travel down to Bradenton to take on DC United at the IMG Academy in their first preseason friendly of the 2015 season.
This Orlando City squad, if you haven’t noticed, looks very different then the cast that lost to the Harrisburg City Islanders in the first round of the USL PRO playoffs all the way back in September. Adrian Heath’s team will go into the season with some very high expectations — the team is talking playoffs, while Kaka is saying championship — and Friday night will be the first test for this new squad, albeit in a friendly.
We know that Kaka won’t be with the team on Friday after flying back to Brazil this week to sort out some visa issues, so what will the Starting XI look like? Here’s my on-the-money, take it to the bank prediction:
Goalkeeper: Donovan Ricketts
Defenders: Rafael Ramos, Gustavo, Aurelien Collin, Luke Boden
Midfielders: Amobi Okugo, Cristian Higuita; Kevin Molino, Pedro Ribeiro, Carlos Rivas
Forward: Martin Paterson
The scrimmage will be three 30-minute segments as each team eases into game shape. Heath told the Orlando Sentinel’s Paul Tenorio yesterday that he’ll be looking to get everyone on the field for about 30-45 minutes, so it seems like most players will have a chance to get on the field. Regardless of the result, as long as they get through the game without an injury it’ll be a win.
As far as the lineup I listed above: I’m going off of the assumption that Heath might start off with the guys that have been in camp for the past week, then work the returning U-20 players into action as the game goes on.
With Brek Shea gone with the national team, Boden should get the start at left back. Ramos and Tyler Turner will be battling this spring for the starting right back spot, and each will likely split 45 minutes. Molino and Rivas will likely be the lead-in to Tony Cascio and Lewis Neal later in the game. With no Kaka, Ribeiro likely gets the nod in the center of the midfield. The sense with Higuita is that Orlando plans on bringing him in as a starter. If that’s the case, I expect to see a starting pair of him and Okugo in the defensive midfielder to begin building that in-game familiarity with each other. And then up top is Paterson; I could see a new forward coming out in each 30-minute period, putting both Cyle Larin and Bryan Rochez on the field, too.
O-Town’s 11’s Ty Rothschild will be on the scene tomorrow night doing our game coverage. We’ll have a match report shortly after the final whistle. And for those of you that can’t make the trip, the match will be streamed live on mlssoccer.com.