The US Open Cup Semifinals are here! Orlando will host the New York Red Bulls in Semifinal #1 on Wednesday night at 7:30 Eastern at Exploria Stadium. A trip to the Open Cup championship against the winner of the other semifinal winner (between Sporting Kansas City and Sacramento Republic). I decided to try my hand at predicting Orlando's Starting XI for the semifinal match (plus the 5 subs that will be used).
Normally, attempting to predict a team's starting XI in the US Open Cup is nothing short of foolish. It's usually a random mix of regulars, youngsters, and reserves. However, once you get deep in the tournament like Orlando is, team's start putting out stronger and stronger lineups (once you make it this far, might as well win it). Orlando put out a strong lineup in the quarterfinal win over Nashville, and I expect the same on Wednesday night. Here we go:
My Predicted Starting XI:
Left Winger=Jake Mulraney
Right Winger=Facundo Torres
Substitutions=Nicholas Gioacchini, Alexandre Pato, Tesho Akindele, Andres Perea, and Kyle Smith.
Goalkeeper=Gallese has been the man between the sticks for Orlando all season, and there's no reason to think anything will be different in the USOC semi's.
Defenders=The biggest question on the backline might be who will start at left-back between Moutinho and Smith. Smith has gotten his looks while Moutinho has been in and out with injury, but now that Moutinho is back I expect him to continue to trot out at LB. I decided to go with Carlos starting over Rodrigo Schlegel at CB as Carlos continues to work his way back from injury. I think this is a good opportunity to give Carlos another long run to help get fit again. Orlando will ultimately have a decision to make between the two however. Jansson and Teixeira have pretty much been constants in the lineup throughout the season and I don't expect that to change in this match.
Midfielders=The toughest decision for me to make in the midfield was who to start at left winger. Mulraney and Michel have pretty much been alternating in and out at the left winger position. I gave Mulraney the edge since it seems that he has been the recent starter (I would also guess that Mulraney would be the one bumped out of the starting lineup of Gioacchini gets the start, but more on that later). Araujo, Urso, Torres, and Pereyra all are consistent starters who usually play well. I expect them all to start here as well.
Forward=Kara leads the team with 7 goals, and is entrenched as the team's starting striker at this point. He'll likely be starting up top once again on Monday (if he isn't, then I'll be shocked).
Substitutions=I can't even begin tell you how tempted I was to put Gioacchini in the starting lineup at right winger with Torres moving to the left side. However, I'm not sure how fit Gioacchini is, so I'm not sure whether or not he'll be able to play in the semi's (and if he can, then how long he'll be able to play). If he's able to play, I expect him to see some action off the bench and eventually work into the starting lineup in the coming weeks. Pato, Akindele, and Perea are regular players in the midfield/up top and I expect them to see action again as well. The final sub spot was down between 3 players for me. I was torn between Smith, Benji Michel, and Rodrigo Schlegel. I decided to go with Smith because he would likely come on for Moutinho late as a defensive replacement (and also could potentially play CB if needed). Michel could see action at winger (especially if Gioacchini doesn't play, but Michel is a candidate nevertheless). Then Schlegel would presumably be the replacement if Carlos can't go the full 90 at CB.
Also of note: it does NOT appear that recent Orlando addition Ivan Angulo will be available for the match. Orlando fans will have a bit longer to see his debut for the Lions.