As Orlando City looks to extend their streak to six unbeaten matches in a row, the Lions take on the boys in burgundy from Colorado for the first time at Exploria Stadium since 2019. In this article we will do a bit of a deeper dive on three players from Colorado that City fans should be on the lookout for throughout the match tonight.
One of the bright spots for Colorado in a season which has seen its share of struggles has been the play of Irish midfielder Connor Ronan. Throughout his first 17 games with the Rapids, Ronan has recorded one goal and six assists and is the minutes leader on the season thus far. Ronan has been the straw that has stirred the drink since captain Jack Price suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon injury back near the beginning of the season. Not only has Ronan recorded two multi-assist efforts on the season, he also became the first Colorado player since Price to record a three-assist match, doing so against the LA Galaxy on May 6. Ronan’s efforts were recognized by mlssoccer.com wrier Jonathan Slgal, who named Ronan as on of the top 12 under-the-radar signings of the past off-season. Logging 1,446 minutes for the Rapids so far this season, Ronan has been tidy in possession, passing at an 85.9% success rate. If Colorado is to find success at Exploria Stadium, Ronan’s ability to find his teammates in positions of strength will surely be an important part of the match storyline.
Last week, in just his second start for the Rapids, goalkeeper Marko Ilic — on loan through July from the Belgian Pro League side KV Kortrijk — recorded his first clean sheet. Prior to arriving stateside for the Rapids, Ilic recorded 16 clean sheets in 71 appearances for Kortrijk and he recorded one appearance on the Serbian national squad during a friendly in June of 2021 against Jamaica. Despite limited first-team time to start the season, Ilic has stayed prepared and has drawn compliments from his coaching staff. Ilic is known to be an athletic shot stopper and strong passer, and if Colorado has visions of controlling possession and building out of the back, he will be central to that plan, while being responsible for keeping the hungry Lions at bay.
Homegrown youngster Cole Bassett returned to his home club from a 10-month loan prior to the start of the 2023 Major League Soccer season. On the year thus far, the 21-year-old has started in seven of the nine matches that he has appeared in. Bassett has scored two goals on the season, including a absolutely beautiful curling shot from outside the 18 in the 95th minute against the Columbus Crew on May 31.
With a reputation as a ruthless attacker with the ability to finish from anywhere and create opportunities for himself, Bassett possesses the quality and stamina to put the Rapids on his back and turn the tide of a match. He will surely be one of the key focuses for defensive midfielders Cesar Araujo and Wilder Cartagena. Shutting him down in the Central Florida humidity may be the most important aspect of the match for Orlando City on the night.
If Orlando is to make it two victories in a row, those are the three pieces of the Colorado puzzle that I think the team will have to combat to achieve their goal. Let us know in the comments below if there are any other major pieces that you are concerned about heading into the match. Vamos Orlando!