Staff Roundtable: Toronto FC Visits Orlando City SC; Pride Prepare for Portland Thorns FC
It was an emotional night last Saturday, and the Lions found a 2-2 draw to be the result against the Earthquakes. Up next, Toronto FC comes to the Campground and looks to take a positive result back north. The Pride traded Lianne Sanderson, and Portland Thorns FC is next for the ladies in purple.
Michael Citro, Austin SIegel and Dave Rohe join us to discuss all this in more in this week's edition of The Mane Land Roundtable.
The Lions fought to a 2-2 draw against the Wondo-less San Jose Earthquakes Saturday night, scoring once again in stoppage time. How can that sense of urgency and precision in the attack be drawn out of the club during regulation?
Michael: I felt like Orlando City did a decent job in the attack in regulation, actually. Cyle Larin was a threat and should have done better with the opportunity that he shot into a diving David Bingham. Adrian Winter sent a good opportunity into the lake north of Camping World Stadium. San Jose can be a frustrating team to play against because they are very well organized defensively and have a good goalkeeper. But it was the same old problem for the Lions — it’s not about not getting chances. It’s about not taking those chances when they’re there.
Austin S.: I think it probably has something to do with Orlando’s ability to effectively counterattack against opponents who park the bus towards the end of the matches. The Lions have scored six stoppage time goals through their first 14 games of 2016 and (until last Saturday) every single one helped the club salvage a draw. Against teams trying to kill off the final minutes of a game, Orlando City’s attack has looked downright unstoppable. During regulation, Orlando must look to create chaos. While it’s tempting to try and let the offense flow through Kaká, that’s worked exactly once this season in a 4-1 win over the Portland Timbers. A far more promising strategy would be looking to create turnovers in the midfield that result in odd-man attacks, regardless of which player is on the ball. When a ticking clock hasn’t forced the Lions to push the pace, they’ve looked far less threatening in 2016.
Dave: Orlando has a 2 wins, 2 losses, and 4 draws record when scoring first. Many teams have a habit of parking the bus once up by one goal, no matter how it frustrates fans. I think there needs to be a mental switch that must be flipped to keep pressing, even if the team does ease up a bit. Stay on the front foot! That being said, staying on the front foot of any game can be a challenge. Orlando has six stoppage time goals, and every single one of them resulted in a draw until last week. Additionally, they've conceded four goals after the 80th minute going 1 win, 1 loss, and 2 draws in those games. The only win was the 4-1 Portland game, where a late goal made no difference. So, while we've managed to salvage some points with those late goals, we've also lost points with defensive breakdowns late in some games. Since we're tied for second in MLS on goals scored, I feel shoring up our defense late in games might be more helpful. It's natural for players to get more tired as the game goes on, timely substitutions could go a long way towards keeping up the urgency and precision on both sides of the ball.
Luke Boden played great against the Quakes. We saw him and Brek Shea form the Killer Bees tandem out left at times last season — is it time to revisit that lineup?
Dave: Absolutely! We know Brek can move up into the midfield and be effective on the left side. Indeed, if he's playing further up, it will allow him to attack with more crosses and shots on goal. Remember that beauty he had against Portland? Of course you do. Additionally, I think with Boden's form where it is, that tandem would allow both Luke and Brek to be more free flowing along the left with each able to push forward or drop back as needed. This would be a solid pairing that I hope we see sooner than later.
Michael: That was certainly the best we’ve seen from Boden this season. He has had a few opportunities and for the most part has not taken advantage of them. Inconsistent is the word I’m looking for. Despite the fact that he played well, I’m not convinced he’s more than a nice backup in MLS. In Heath’s system, a more pacey option is preferred. And playing the two of them keeps Carlos Rivas on the bench, which…did you see that sick cross to Baptista? Personally I’d prefer to see more of the Colombian because I feel like Rivas will only get better and more consistent if his minutes increase, but he’s got to earn that every day in training and perhaps he’s not doing that, I don’t know.
Austin S.: I think Luke Boden’s in a tough spot. He’s looked impressive in the starting XI, but isn’t likely to hear his name called when Orlando’s at full strength. And as a bench option, he’s not a player who’s going to change the tenor of a match. For a team languishing outside playoff position, Orlando never seems content to allow guys like Boden to provide quality depth off the bench. With red card suspensions, injuries and international duty, Bodz is going to see plenty of action this season. I think Orlando is still at their best with Brek Shea at left back and either Carlos Rivas or Kevin Molino providing service on the left wing.
Orlando City will welcome Toronto FC to the campground June 25. It will have been almost one month since Cyle Larin scored a goal in purple. Can the Lions do anything differently to put him in position to score?
Austin S.: That’s actually a little bit misleading because Orlando’s been off for the group stage of the Copa America, so Larin’s only gone two matches without finding the back of the net. As long as he’s been playing FIFA during the break, I think he’ll be fine. But having Kaká back should certainly help, taking pressure off Larin to create offensive opportunities and allowing him to serve as more of a target.
Dave: I think this has been on everyone's mind lately, including Larin. I'm going to go back to the Brek/Boden question, as a possible solution. Having Brek feed balls from the left would help. Additionally, getting Kaká back and healthy will help. As good as Molino has been, we'd be better with the Captain in the center and Molino on the right. If Cyle is getting balls from Shea, Kaká and Molino, with each of them able to be scoring threats as well, things will open up and allow Cyle to score more goals.
Michael: Part of the reason it's been almost a month is a three-week Copa America break, so I'm not too concerned about the number of days. Larin got himself into dangerous areas and had scoring chances against San Jose. If he hadn't I might be more apt to raise an eyebrow. I think Kid Fantastic is fine and the best thing for his game would be a healthy Kaká to pull defenders away from him and provide quality through balls.
One name immediately comes to mind when talking Toronto FC — Sebastian Giovinco. How does Adrian Heath gameplan for the Atomic Ant?
Michael: It's got to be a team effort, with multiple defenders involved. It's a bit how successful teams have defended Lionel Messi. You have to start with a man on him. You can't just wait for him to get the ball and then try to surround him. Denying him the ball in the first place by choking the passing lanes between the ball and him is paramount. But once he has it, you've got to get players to step to him in concert, so that he doesn't simply shake one and then the other. It's not easy.
Austin S.: If I knew the answer to that question, I’d be shopping my resume around MLS. But I think Orlando’s best shot may be to have Tommy Redding mark the Italian anytime he crosses midfield. The 19-year-old shut down David Villa when Orlando beat NYCFC back in March, and he may be Orlando’s best shot at keep Seba under control.
Dave: It’s funny, we just answered a question about Larin needing to score more goals since he only has seven this season. Giovinco has eight. The first part of the plan is Joe “You Shall Not Pass!” Bendik. He has 49 saves on the season, meaning Julio Baptista is not the only Beast on the team. I’m going to go back to the Brek/Boden pairing again. Boden has been excellent, and if he is in the left back position he’ll shore up that side. Additionally, Rafael Ramos should be back in the lineup. A healthy back line with Ramos will go a long way towards defending against the Atomic Ant. Finally, win the time of possession. While it isn’t necessarily a good indicator of wins or losses, keeping the ball off Giovinco’s feet can’t hurt.
How do you feel about Lianne Sanderson being traded to Western NY?
Austin S.: I’m in Western New York right now, and I think Lianne’s going to like it here just fine. But this seems like a player-initiated deal that won’t have much of a net impact on the Pride. I don’t think Sanderson was the dynamic attacking partner the club needed alongside Alex Morgan, so why not take their chances on an international slot.
Michael: It saddens me because I felt she was the team's best distributor of the ball and it wasn't even close. Ultimately, I'm not sure if Tom Sermanni simply wanted a player with more pace to play in the middle of his 4-3-3, but he wasn't giving her the minutes she wanted and she asked to be moved. To the team's credit, they didn't hold her back and found a place to send her where she can't hurt the Pride this year unless both teams are in the postseason. I'd have like to have seen a 4-4-2 diamond with Sanderson at the top, feeding the ball to Morgan and Hagen. But what I would like doesn't matter. Sermanni has to do what he feels gives the team its best chance to win and he preferred Sanderson off the bench. She didn't like that and all parties have moved on, so we should too.
Dave: Seems to me that it will be a good thing for all parties concerned. While I'm always sad to see a good player leave, especially one than can contribute off the bench, I can also understand her desire to get some more playing time. As for the Pride, it opens up an international spot, and I'm sure we'll have no problem using that to fill a need, and we have those on offense (helping Alex out with the attack) and defense (shoring up the back line).
Portland Thorns FC visits the Pride this Sunday, and look to continue their season-long unbeaten streak. Are the Pride capable of snapping this streak? How?
Michael: They’re certainly capable. Orlando has been a better, more confident team at home. Everyone seems more at ease and the offense has obviously worked much better, but some of that involved Sanderson. Beating Portland means slowing down Tobin Heath and Lindsey Horan, although the Thorns have gotten even better since the Pride played in Portland to open the season. Amandine Henry stepped right in and was productive. Allie Long and Nadia Nadim can both be dangerous, as can Dagny Brynjarsdottir and Meghan Klingenberg and Christine Sinclair and OH MY GOD ARE THEY LOADED. But seriously, the key is generally to control Heath and Horan. Oh, and the Pride should also score some goals if they want to win. They’ll need Alex Morgan to be her best and finish her chances — something she hasn’t always done (see also: the last two road matches).
Dave: Any Given Sunday. The Pride have shown flashes of what they can become this season, and Alex Morgan has been healthy and productive, but she can't do it all. With Sanderson being traded it falls to the next woman up. Someone has and opportunity to step up and contribute. Jasmyne Spencer is certainly a possibility, or perhaps one of the younger players, like Jamia Fields. It is a short turnaround from the game against the Houston Dash on Thursday, but Portland is coming off a Wednesday night game against Chicago, and they have to travel. Hopefully that can help the Pride be more relaxed and productive. It certainly won't be easy, but that's why they play the game.
Austin S.: Why not? Orlando's won every home game they've played this season and the Thorns will be coming off a seven-hour flight from the Pacific Northwest. My gut says that Orlando is able to fight for a draw.
And this edition of the roundtable is adjourned. Let your opinions be heard below, and remember to get your Serge Ibaka jerseys as soon as you can.
The Mane Land Announces Membership Program
Maximize your Mane Land experience with our new TML membership program while supporting our independent efforts.
Hello, readers of The Mane Land and listeners of our podcasts. Before you start reading this, please note that the most important part of this post is at the end. So, don’t stop until you get to the bottom.
You may recall that when we left SBNation to become independent, we really weren’t sure the best way to go about that. Many of our readers and listeners generously offered to help us make that transition, but we still weren’t sure the best path forward, so we took a poll.
The poll was pretty much split down the middle between those who preferred a one-time, Kickstarter-style campaign (which we did, and those of you who stepped up to help completely blew us away!) and those who favored a Patreon-style, subscription-based membership with extra perks. In fact, the member subscriptions option got a few more votes in our poll.
The folks who took part in our GoFundMe fundraiser were fantastic and are now immortalized on this very site on the “Our Founders” page. But we had always planned to give folks the option to choose whichever method of support they preferred and we tried to communicate that throughout the process. It took a little longer than expected to get up and running, but our membership subscription program is now in place! (You may notice the fancy new banner ad about it on the home page, echoed below.)
Part of that delay was thinking up something that didn’t encroach on the benefits we gave our Founders. Those folks helped us get started and deserve the exclusivity of the perks they got. The other part of the delay is that there just aren’t enough hours in the day. (However, for you guys, I’m willing to be cloned.)
We have utilized the popular Buy Me a Coffee platform to run this program. You can find the basics here. The Mane Land premium membership program includes three tiers of membership, as well as the option to click on the “Support” tab for those who just want to help us out whenever, without joining the program or adding any recurring “appointment-based” payments to their budgets. We love that feature of Buy Me a Coffee (or “Buy Us a Beer” in our case…you drink what you like).
For those who do choose to become members, we hope we have provided value and we are planning to add benefits along the way, in addition to providing special giveaways, events, etc. (more on that below). We have also provided subscription options — with monthly or annual memberships. The annual cost essentially gives you 12 months for the price of 10.
The current membership benefits depend on which level of support you choose — Homegrown Player, TAM Player, or Designated Player level. Each level includes all benefits from the lower tiers, with additional benefits for each higher level.
Homegrown Player: This is a basic set-it-and-forget-it level of support for The Mane Land, providing a way for our readers and podcast listeners to contribute to the success of TML‘s independence goals. We want to compensate our current volunteers, replace lost income of those who previously received small stipends from being part of the SBNation network, add photographers, attract new writers, and expand our coverage. Additionally, each Homegrown Player Level member will be recognized in a Lion Links column, which is still typically our most widely read post of each day and one of the top daily links columns among soccer sites. Homegrown Player Level members will also be included in any future prize drawings we have or events we host and may be subject to future benefits as they are added.
TAM Player: In addition to Homegrown Player benefits, TAM Players will receive a new weekly e-newsletter in their inbox (unless you opt out…some people hate email). These will be informal missives from myself, other TML writers, or a combination, discussing what’s on our mind regarding Orlando City, the Pride, OCB, or soccer in general. Think of it as an extra post from our site that may cover multiple topics. Additionally, you’ll get a 10% discount from our web shop items that we control (presently, that means everything except our listed MLS Shop items). We will definitely have more benefits coming for this level soon and will look for opportunities to include additional benefits as they become available.
Designated Player: This limited availability level of support includes all perks from the Homegrown and TAM levels, but it goes beyond. Your discount at our webshop (for items we control) will be 15% off. Additionally, we’ll send you Zoom links to watch us “make the doughnuts” whenever we record the podcast. This includes when we interview guests. You’ll see how the sausage is made behind the scenes and everything that we say, some of which will end up on the cutting room floor before the final podcast is sent out. This includes both The Mane Land PawedCast and SkoPurp Soccer: An Orlando Pride PawedCast. And after two months of membership you can commission a bonus episode of either podcast simply by letting us know what topic you want us to cover. Think of this as an extended Ask Us Anything. We’ll do a whole show about your topic and you can even join us to discuss it if you wish.
The DP Level will certainly have additional benefits tacked on as we move forward. It is currently limited to 40 members but could be expanded slightly depending on demand and our Zoom attendance.
Future Benefits / Benefits Under Consideration
While we won’t be able to schedule these due to the random nature of items falling into our hands, there will be periodic prize giveaways in drawings that include all of our members, regardless of level. The catch is that you get one entry per level of support, meaning Homegrown Player Level members will get one entry per prize drawing, TAM Player Level members will get two entries per drawing, and Designated Player Level members get three entries for prize drawings. Some of the kinds of items we have come across in the past include match tickets, trinkets, posters, scarves, and so on.
We are planning to add a message board to our website, well…soon-ish is the word that comes to mind. The plan for the message board is to build our community and further the discussion about the club. As part of this, we’re planning an exclusive, members-only area of that message board that TAM and DP members can access. This will be a place our staff can share informational nuggets we can’t necessarily write stories about for various reasons and interact with our members on a daily basis.
Other things in the works include meet-and-greets/watch parties where you can chat with TML staff members and catch a road match with a bunch of like-minded Orlando City/Pride fans while we all cheer on the team together. There may also be other informal outings with one or more members of the staff, organized fantasy leagues, random Zoom calls for Q&A sessions, and perhaps even some organized group outings for Orlando City / Pride matches, national team games, etc.
The Most Important Part of This Post
Remember at the top of this post, when I said the most important part is at the bottom? Well, that seems like a long time ago, now, so it’s OK if you’ve already forgotten.
The most important part of our membership program is you. We want your feedback so we can make this program something that interests and excites you. We want to know what you like and dislike about this program. We want to know if there are some things we didn’t think of that interest you. If you like what we’re offering, tell us! If you hate what we’re offering, we want to know what you’d prefer instead or in addition. If you want to go drinking with Dave, we can probably arrange that, but it’ll be a unique tier and we’ll have to figure out the cost of that.
No idea is too crazy to suggest, even if it’s too insane for us to actually offer. Let us know what you want from your subscription and we’ll see if that’s something we can do. We’ll make it easy for you by putting the form right here below this post, which is now concluded.
Where do I even start? When we were told in January that SBNation was pulling its support of The Mane Land and other MLS and NHL blogs — and many podcasts — I was devastated. The site had become my new baby in September of 2014 and after eight and a half years, I wasn’t ready to let it go.
I was in a pickle. I couldn’t afford to lose the monthly stipend I had been getting from SBNation to manage the site and provide a steady stream of content. It wasn’t that it was a huge monthly sum, but it mostly covered my car payment. That car was purchased when my salary was higher. The pandemic hit my day job like it did to many, and after a four-month layoff, I got my old job back but not at the same rate. So, imagine taking a pay decrease at work and then, on top of that, losing the amount you spend per month on your car payment. There was simply no way to launch The Mane Land independently, I thought, because I simply couldn’t cover the startup costs. Even with some generous offers from the staff to pitch in, there simply wasn’t a way.
Once we took the news public, there was an outpouring of support on social media. We appreciated both the pledges to help out that we got from the community and the signal boosting that the national media gave blogs like ours. Those national folks rely on local reporting for background.
Encouraged by this outpouring of public support, I met with the TML staff and we threw some ideas around. We polled our Twitter followers to see how our community would prefer to show their support. We got pretty close to a 50/50 split between those who wanted to provide a one-time donation via a Kickstarter or GoFundMe crowdsourcing effort, and those who would prefer some sort of premium subscription add-on service like Patreon or Buy Me a Coffee.
We didn’t get a lot of responses to that poll, but we decided as a group that since the results were so similar, we would offer both and let the public choose one path, the other, or even both. (Stay tuned for news soon-ish on the premium subscription level, but rest assured, everything you’ve been getting for free at TML will remain free!)
I was, admittedly, skeptical that we could raise enough startup money to create a private business, pay for hosting a new site and two podcasts (having long wanted to give the Orlando Pride their own unique show), registering a domain, paying for some design work and consulting, and any unexpected expenses that might come up. However, I thought we’d at least give it a try.
Then the amazing Orlando City, Orlando Pride, and TML community got involved. You guys pushed us past our bare minimum goal in just four and a half hours when our fundraiser went live on March 1. We reset our goal and you met that by midnight. We reset our goal again, to the dream total we discussed on our initial staff Zoom chat and you met that by that first weekend.
Stunned. Humbled. Amazed. Touched. All of these words apply to how that made us feel, but they don’t quite cover it. I think we all felt an enormous responsibility, as well. We felt a mandate to provide you the best site and the best coverage we can.
We got everything we needed to run the site for two years, even if we don’t earn a penny after our launch — and we plan to try, via advertising, a Patreon (or similar) program, an online shop, affiliate links, and anything else we can think of. But we decided to leave the GoFundMe open through the end of March, just in case there were folks who wanted to contribute but needed to wait for payday, or if more people wanted to become founding members of this new site.
Now, here we are. You guys did this. We’re here because of you. And this site isn’t quite what it will become. I’m still learning my way around WordPress, after being away from it for years. There’s more to build, and some of the things you’re seeing on this site now will be improved in the future. We’ll continue to tweak it, add things, and upgrade as we go.
For now, I just want to welcome you to your new online home. On behalf of our entire staff, I thank our founding members, who are now immortalized on this site in our founders section. If you weren’t able to contribute to our transition from SBNation’s network to an autonomous and independent, new version of The Mane Land, you can thank the folks on our founders page, because without them, we wouldn’t be here. And if you still want to help out, we’ve got more things on the way.
Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. Philadelphia Union
It’s Matchday Eve once again, and Orlando City is looking to right the ship after a tough 2-1 loss to Charlotte FC last Saturday. This week the Lions will hit the road and take on the Philadelphia Union up in Pennsylvania.
A date with the Union means I caught up with Joe Lister, one of the writers over at Philadelphia Soccer Now, the new home of what was formerly SBNation’s Brotherly Game. As usual, Joe was extremely helpful in getting us up to speed on Philly.
One of the storylines in Orlando City’s off-season was Andres Perea’s departure for the Union. How has he performed so far?
Joe Lister: He’s done really well. Perea has sat behind Ale Bedoya thus far in the season, but as the Union’s captain exits matches a little earlier this year, Perea has stepped in well. He’s also seen significant minutes in Champions League play, and has been great in all competitions. He’s not fighting for a starting spot, but Perea is exactly what Philly needed: a role player.
Paxten Aaronson and Sergio Santos are no longer with Philly. How have they been replaced?
JL: Frankly, Santos and Aaronson have been the Union’s least important transfers of recent memory. The absence of Cory Burke is felt a little more in the first team, but it’s hard to say that Jim Curtin is regretting letting Santos and Aaronson walk.
In the larger picture of transfers, Philly brought in Perea and Joaquin Torres to boost the attack, and they’ve looked solid this far. Torres has demonstrated abilities at the No. 10 and the No. 9, and Perea, as you know, has huge upside at the No. 8.
Obviously, the Union are competing on two fronts to start the season, which can make it a bit tricky to judge performances when rotation is coming into the mix. With that being said, what are your early impressions of the team this year?
JL: The team is a little shaky. For some reason, the same starting XI that reached the MLS Cup final is struggling to gel.
The attack, more specifically, is having a rough go. It took some time to get forward Mikael Uhre going, but as soon as he did, Julian Carranza picked up a red card. It isn’t pretty right now, and the Union truly looks like a mid-table side in MLS action.
Are there any injuries, suspensions or call-ups that will keep players unavailable for selection? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?
JL: That Carranza red card will give him a suspension against Orlando, and goalkeeper Andre Blake may be missing the match due to a grade one adductor strain (though he could be cleared to play within the next few days). The Union will also be missing a bunch of players to international duty. Daniel Gazdag, Damion Lowe, Jose Martinez, Richard Odada, Quinn Sullivan, Brandan Craig, and Jack McGlynn will all be out. I’m no math major, but that adds up to nine absences.
Deep breath, here’s my lineup projection.
This isn’t gospel, but Curtin turned to a 4-3-2-1 when faced with injuries in 2021. My gut is that he’ll try something similar here.
Joe Bendik; Kai Wagner, Jack Elliott, Jakob Glesnes, Olivier Mbaizo; Jesus Bueno, Leon Flach, Alejandro Bedoya; Joaquin Torres, Andres Perea; Mikael Uhre.
With all of that said, the Union just can’t pull this off. The team is missing too many players, and they just don’t look comfortable in MLS. This one goes to Orlando, 3-1.
Big thanks to Joe for getting us caught up on the Union. Vamos Orlando!
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