Orlando City goes into tomorrow’s game with a chance to push its undefeated run to four games to open the 2023 season. It won’t be easy though, and not just because Oscar Pareja will undoubtedly have an eye on the second leg of the Concacaf Champions League on Wednesday. Before the home leg against Tigres, Orlando travels north to take on D.C. United, a team that was Orlando’s kryptonite last year, despite winning the Wooden Spoon by a comfortable margin.
A trip to D.C. means that I spoke to Sarah Kallassy, managing editor of The District Press, formerly named Black and Red United prior to departing SBNation and going independent. As usual, Sarah was extremely helpful in getting us caught up on D.C. United.
Christian Benteke was obviously the big off-season signing for D.C. United. How has he looked so far?
Sarah Kallassy: We’ve been really pleased with what we’ve seen from Benteke so far this season. He scored in the home opener to contribute to D.C.‘s win over Toronto alongside Klich and Ku-DiPietro. In the Black-and-Red’s last match against Columbus, Benteke played to the whistle — despite the score line. We love the mentality and what he brings to the team, and his connection to other players has been top-notch.
We’re now in the first full season of D.C. under Wayne Rooney. Obviously it’s still early, but how does he want this team to play?
SK: From everything Wayne Rooney has shown us and shared so far, he’s focused on maintaining a winning mentality, especially when the going gets tough. He’s been very adaptive in his approach to match day, making the appropriate shifts in formations and tactics to suit not only the opposition but also our players’ workload. While he doesn’t have all the pieces he’s likely hoping for yet, we are looking forward to seeing this more resilient mentality he brought to the team shine as the season carries on.
What area of the field is the strongest for D.C., and what area are you most concerned about?
SK: Offensively, D.C. has grown by leaps and bounds. Our attack has only gotten stronger under Rooney, with the additions of Benteke and Klich. When Taxi Fountas returns to the roster, we are really looking forward to seeing what happens. We have some concerns about consistency in defense. Simple mistakes in the box have cost us.
Are there any players who will be unavailable due to injury, suspension etc? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?
SK: Taxi Fountas, Martin Rodriguez, and Brendan Hines-Ike are all still out due to injury. We’re expecting Rooney to keep a similar lineup to the past two matches with Benteke and Klich up top leading the charge. But the fun thing about this team under Rooney is that every single player has to earn their spot for each match. We may see some surprises based on how performances have been in practice this week.
We’re predicting 2-1 for Saturday, and certainly hoping for some home team magic — or what you all would call the “Rooney curse.”
Thank you to Sarah and the folks over at The District Press for bringing us up to speed on D.C. United. Vamos Orlando!