Mar 28, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; D.C. United midfielder Nick DeLeon (14) congratulates midfielder/forward Chris Pontius (13) after assisting on a goal during the second half at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
There’s no place like home. That’s where Orlando City will be when they host DC United this Friday at the Orlando Citrus Bowl. Kick-off is set for 7 p.m. ET on UniMas.
The Lions are fresh off a come-from-behind draw with the Montreal Impact, in which they battled back from two goals down early in the game to settle for a point on the road.
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The Lions are returning to the Citrus Bowl this week, where they’ve already played a couple of close games — drawing late with NYCFC in the opener, and losing to Vancouver on a stoppage-time goal two weeks ago — and will be looking to earn their first MLS victory in front of the fans that support them through thick and thin.
The story on Orlando City
The story last weekend — international call-ups — will play another role in the game this Friday for Orlando City, even if most of the players will be here with the club. By tomorrow, all of the players should be back, but there’s no telling how much of an impact any of them will play.
Brek Shea played the full 90 minutes against Switzerland on Tuesday — he also scored a kick-ass goal — and could see time on Friday against DC as a late sub for Adrian Heath. The same could apply for both Darwin Ceren and Rafael Ramos as well, but we’ll have to see how things play out over the next day or two.
Just as much, injuries will also be something to keep an eye on over the next 48 hours leading up to kick-off. Carlos Rivas has finally rejoined the team in training and could seem some action off of the bench tomorrow night, assuming his hamstring injury stays quite. As for Martin Paterson and Cristian Higuita, it looks like both of those guys will be out again on Friday. Lewis Neal (neck) and Tony Cascio (back) also appear to be getting better.
The biggest injury concern is Kaka and his left calf, which tightened up a little bit on him this week. Heath told reporters on Wednesday that it was nothing serious, however, and that he should be good to go for Friday’s matchup, which, of course, is great news for everyone in Orlando.
The story on DC United
DC is coming off of a big home win against the LA Galaxy last week, and are one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference at the moment. However, they’re not exactly known as one of the better traveling teams, and that could play a factor when they play in front of at least 23,000-25,000 people at the Citrus Bowl on Friday.
Even with Bill Hamid standing in goal and a guy like Perry Kitchen roaming around the defensive midfielder, DC was dealt a huge blow this week when they found out defender Steve Birnbaum will be out 4-to-6 weeks with an ankle injury. Up front, United will also be without the dangerous striker Fabian Espindola (suspension), another plus for the Lions.
Rather, United manager Ben Olsen will be lining up guys like Jairo Arrieta — one of Orlando City’s Expansion Draft picks, if you don’t remember — and Chris Pontius, both of whom can still cause problems for the Orlando City defense.
DC typically likes to play a 4-4-2 system under Olsen, with Kitchen and Davy Arnaud running things in the middle, where they haven’t had much success this season, however. That’ll be an area to focus on for Orlando City’s attack.
Predicting the Starting XI
Seb Hines — Sean St. Ledger — Aurelien Collin — Luke Boden
Kevin Molino — Kaka — Pedro Ribeiro
Danny Mwanga — Bryan Rochez
Yes, I know, it’s crazy. But hear me out. If last week’s lineup was to play more conservative on the road with a short-handed roster, then the Lions can afford to loosen things up in the back while still trying to play without some of their key players.
The backline will likely remain the same as last week with Shea and Ramos coming back from international duty. Heath went with a 5-2-2-1 last week, with Okugo and Eric Avila as the deep midfielders. Okugo would be the lone guy here, with the attacking midfield in front of him consisting of Molino, Kaka, and Ribeiro. That would put to attacking forwards up top — Rochez and Mwanga — to put the pressure on up top with the three attacking midfielders moving around to create space.
I liked with Heath did with the lineup last week. It keep numbers on defense, but using Boden and Tyler Turner as the wing-backs helped account for the losses of Shea, Ramos, and Molino coming down the wings. You could always create the again this week, or opt for Turner instead of Hines at right back, and push him over to center back in place of St. Legder.
I think this’ll be another tightly contested matchup for Orlando City, who will, like I said, want to get the three points in front of their home crowd. DC won’t make it easy, but I think Orlando finally picks up the he victory with a 2-1 victory tomorrow night.