Staff Roundtable Week 6: Orlando City vs. New England Revolution
Orlando City is coming off its first loss of the season, falling 2-1 last weekend in Philadelphia on what turned out to be a pretty controversial goal. Personally, I thought for being down four starters, on the road, on short rest, in cold weather, the Lions played an OK road game, generating chances and mostly taking care of their own end, with the notable exception of a howler by Rafael Ramos early and a tired foul in a dangerous area late.
And it still took a goal-of-the-week and a save-of-the-week candidate to get the Union the slimmest of victories.
OK, so maybe Orlando won’t go undefeated in 2016. We pretty much figured that. But the next four games are crucial, with two matches each against the New England Revolution and New York Red Bulls.
Seated at the roundtable this week to close the book on the Union and open a new one for the Revs are Brad Newton, Meg Van Dyk and Austin David. Let's get their hot takes now.
Orlando City is coming off its first loss of the season, after coming within moments of getting a hard-fought road draw. What was the biggest factor in the outcome?
Brad: Being unable to retain possession and a lot of unnecessary mistakes by the pair of defenders on the right side. Missing four key players that had a significant impact on the match versus Portland didn't help matters, but you should've figured with the alleged new found depth that Orlando City had acquired over the off-season that this shouldn't have been a huge issue for the club.
Meg: I think the biggest factor was lack of depth. The team was missing several starters and was forced to play players who were unfamiliar with playing a full game. Towards the end they looked tired and had some slip-ups that cost them the game.
Austin: While there were multiple factors that ended up costing Orlando a point on the road, the biggest thing was probably tired legs at the end of the game. A lot has been said about Adrian Heath's lack of subs in the late stages of the match and it's possible that Inchy felt differently about using subs in the heat of the moment. But hindsight is always 20/20, so saying what he should have done isn't going to help. The best thing for the team to do is to move on and chalk it up as a learning experience, both from the players and the coaching staff.
With the club missing four starters on Friday night, which one was missed most: Brek Shea, Cristian Higuita, Tommy Redding, or Cyle Larin? Why?
Meg: Tommy Redding and Cyle Larin seemed to be the most missed. The back line was missing one of its familiar anchors, which created some gaps, allowing Philadelphia to make more clean runs on the ball. With Larin missing, Lion midfielders had to step up into an unfamiliar position where they seemed slightly off and unable to reach full potential.
Austin: It’s really hard to argue who was missed the most, but I would have to say either Cyle Larin or Cristian Higuita. With Orlando having to deploy Kaká as the “false nine” in the formation, there was no real threat from a true striker on the pitch. They lacked that player who would demand attention in the box on crosses or had to be marked due to his ability to score. With Higuita missing, they missed that controlling midfielder who has paired well with Darwin Cerén many a time in games. Antonio Nocerino is not ready to be starting just yet and the chemistry with his new teammates isn’t on par with that of Higuita but, given time, it could work out. Just look at Adrian Winter’s progression from when he was first signed.
Brad: Higuita, no question. When we look at Orlando City’s 1-0 victory over NYCFC (another match where Orlando City didn’t look completely in control of the match but somehow walked out with three points), Higuita’s efforts in the midfield made all the difference. Higuita’s possession and distribution were sorely missed in an error-filled match that saw Orlando City drop points thanks to a last minute free kick. I mean, look at what Higuita did vs. NYCFC:
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Has Adrian Winter done enough in five matches to have earned a starting spot in the lineup even if Adrian Heath had an entirely healthy roster to work with?
Austin: This is an intriguing question because he absolutely has earned a starting spot on this team and has played both the right and left wings incredibly well. However, if you were to try and play him over Molino, I’m not sure that’s ready to be the case. Adrian Heath has worked with Molino since 2011 and knows what he’s capable of, probably even more than Molino himself. I can’t see Heath giving up on him so early in the season, since he is still creating chances for others. Winter has proved that he can play on both wings, so starting him on the left is a definite option going forward and with Carlos Rivas still working back to 100%, that may be what we see on Sunday.
Brad: I'd say so. I like Winter as a center attacking midfielder who plays a lot like Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez. He chases down balls and applies pressure to try and win possession. His distribution of the ball isn't as great as other options in midfield, but, in terms of covering the ground and being where the ball is during matches, he's having an intangible effect on how that attack builds that may not show up in the stat sheets, but is certainly felt on the pitch.
Meg: Absolutely, Adrian Winter has proven to be a work horse, a player willing to do whatever and play wherever. Regardless of who is healthy, Winter should receive a starting role. He brings talent and cohesiveness to Orlando, and is an all-around play maker.
What’s going on with Rafael Ramos this year and how close do you think Heath is to giving Kevin Alston a game?
Brad: I'm not trusting Ramos with watering my cactus, let alone entrusting him to defend on the right side in a 4-3-3. However, Alston may not feature anytime soon if Heath's willingness to hold on to players and not make changes too quickly continues, like we saw on Friday. Assuming he does, however, I wouldn't expect him to crack the starting XI and how the back line performs against New England will certainly factor into Heath's selections moving forward.
Meg: Rafael Ramos has lost his edge. He looks weak and unwilling to put in the work in order to improve. Ramos needs to seriously improve if he hopes to live up to his contract. If Heath is going to give Alston playing time, this week is as good as any. With Orlando playing his former team, it would be interesting to see how he played against his old teammates and help Heath gauge where he fits best in the roster.
Austin: I've had this conversation with so many people over the last week and I've heard different perspectives on Rafael Ramos' play so far this year. The consensus is, that he's making too many mental mistakes when trying to defend. Whether it be missed clearances, poor man marking, or just general bad play, Ramos almost seems to have regressed a bit since last year. It's possible that while trying to cut down his temper, it also took out a bit of bite and aggressiveness from his game as a whole. Maybe letting him go out and be aggressive is what he needs to play well, which obviously would create the same problems it did last year. At this point, however, it may be worth giving a try. Now, whether Alston will be given a game, I could definitely see it happening, especially if Ramos' form continues as it is. The only question now is, how short of a leash does Ramos have before it's yanked?
Much like last weekend's opponent, Orlando City has yet to get a win over Sunday's foe, the New England Revolution. What are the keys to changing that fact and what is your score prediction for Sunday?
Meg: The key factors will be the team being fit, starters returning, and, as always, cohesion. This season Orlando has the talent and ability to beat New England. However, this means all players need to be healthy and able to play. The score line will likely be low due to strong defense, something like 1-0 Orlando.
Austin: Orlando really doesn't match up too well against the Revolution in theory, but depending on the lineup, the Lions could make a game of it. New England has great facilitators in the final third and can pick out passes better than most teams. If the back line for Orlando has Tommy Redding back, then they'll have a good chance of containing the balls in the final third. If Aurelien Collin comes in to play and plays his usual aggressive style of defending, then Orlando's defense will be picked apart by pinpoint passes in the box, much like we saw last year up in New England. If Orlando can get Redding, Higuita and Larin back, then I could potentially see a 2-1 win for Orlando. If not, then most likely a 3-0 defeat.
Brad: *looks around to see where Jermaine Jones is* *is with Colorado Rapids* Hmm all right, yeah, this should go a lot smoother. What’s that? He didn’t really contribute to the Revs either time they played? Hmm…that certainly changes things. New England has been somewhat sleepy to start out the season and has a -2 goal differential (Orlando City has a +4). If the first few games have shown us anything, it’s that Orlando City has a hard time retaining possession through the midfield. This has to change in order for Orlando City to pick up its first win over New England.
Bonus question: The expansion Orlando Pride will be in Portland to play the Thorns in their first ever NWSL match. Are the Thorns on the road too tough an opponent for Tom Sermanni's side to get a result and how do you see this inaugural match playing out?
Austin: Sermanni and his squad have had a good preseason and the team has been jelling well both on and off the pitch. Going up against a Portland team that has mostly been together over the last year could prove to be a challenge and there will be some feeling out stages early in the game, but if everyone from the Pride is healthy and ready to go, I'd say a 2-1 victory for Orlando.
Brad: It’s certainly an interesting match-up, to say the least. Christine Sinclair, Tobin Heath, and former Orlando Pride defender (editor’s note: for a few seconds, anyway) Meghan Klingenberg all feature for the Thorns, along with new arrival and genuinely terrifying goal scorer, Lindsey Horan. Portland has the benefit of having played together for extended periods of time, so there isn’t that general “feeling out” process that teams undergo when they first start out. Luckily for Orlando, they’ve already produced two excellent results against Florida State and UF — two college programs that churn out a lot of talent and frequently go deep into the NCAA tournament. I think this is the perfect match for the Pride to assess where they’re at talent-wise and work some things out tactically against a quality opponent. It’ll be a barn burner of a slobberknocker in Providence Park. 3-2 Pride.
Meg: The Thorns on the road are not too tough of an opponent for the Pride, but their fans might be. Thorns fans are notorious for being the largest supporter group, drawing large crowds, and being intimidating to visiting teams. Any time the Thorns are at home, the odds are on their side. However, if their preseason is any inclination of how the rest of the season will go, Orlando has a real shot at defeating the beast at home. 2-1 Orlando Pride.
* * *
That's your roundtable discussion for Week 6 as Orlando City prepares to quell the Revolution and the Pride head to Portland. For the record, I'm not nearly as optimistic as our roundtable this week about the Pride going up against one of the NWSL's favorites on the road and getting a win this early. But they still have to play the game, so you never know.
Feel free to add your answers to these questions or explain why our staff is right/wrong in their predictions or analysis in the comments section below.
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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