Orlando City returns to the friendly confines of Exploria Stadium to host FC Cincinnati this Saturday. While the Lions have started off the season ever so slightly better than last year, there’s still no victory in 2021. In fact, there’s only been one (albeit cheeky) goal from Nani against Sporting Kansas City. Fortunately, Orlando City’s defense has been up to the challenge. What do the Lions need to do to get that first win?
Goals, Goals, Goals
With Daryl Dike still abroad and Alexandre Pato out on injury, goals have been hard to come by for the Lions. FC Cincinnati could be just what the doctor ordered. Cincy has given up seven goals in the two matches. That doesn’t mean the goals will come easily, as someone in purple will still need to find the back of the net. Last season’s top scorer, Chris Mueller, came close last match and will likely get more playing time this week. Nani seems to be finding his footing with each passing match, and already has the Lions’ only goal. Tesho Akindele hasn’t looked sharp so far, but that could change at home. Orlando City has generally scored goals by committee under Óscar Pareja and contributions could come from Benji Michel, Junior Urso, Andres Perea, or the returning Mauricio Pereyra. It can take time for players to get into form, and that includes scoring goals. Playing at home against a team that is giving up goals is a good recipe for getting Orlando City back to its scoring form from last season.
The Maestro’s Return
Orlando City always seems to start the season with a key player on suspension. This year it was Pereyra for the first two matches, but he makes his grand return this weekend. As we learned last season, the Lions are a different team when Pereyra is pulling the strings. His vision, passing, and ability to maintain possession give Orlando City another dimension to the attack. Pareja has made adjustments in his absence, but it’s not quite the same quality. How long Pereyra is able to go in this match may determine how many goals the Lions are able to score.
Maintain the D
No Robin Jansson, no Uri Rosell, and until recently, no João Moutinho, would normally make a person worry about the state of Orlando City’s defense. However, two matches in and the Lions have conceded just one goal. FC Cincinnati can score goals. Brenner is a definite threat, and if Luciano Acosta is able to make an appearance, it will open up the visitors’ offense. Pedro Gallese has been his usual metaphorical eight-armed self, and there’s no reason to think that will change. Rodrigo Schlegel has been a more-than-adequate backup for Jansson, who himself has been spotted back at training, and Kyle Smith has been one of the team’s better players in each of the first two matches. That is good, because even if we see Moutinho, it’s unlikely he’ll play more than 60 minutes.
Check back for more coverage of the match this weekend.