Orlando City is back and at home this Saturday hosting LAFC, their third straight Western Conference opponent. While some may be very satisfied with the 4 points accumulated on the West Coast trip, others are still having nightmares over the way the Timbers match ended. The Lions will have the luxury of being back in their home stadium at Exploria after the United States national team used it to qualify for the World Cup. Hopefully some of that magic is still spread out across the pitch for the Lions.
So far, LAFC has been an absolute juggernaut. Undefeated in their first four, they sit alone at the top of the Western Conference standings with 3 wins and 1 draw. Carlos Vela leads the way with 4 goals which was a question mark going into the season in terms of his ability to stay fit, because we all know his quality when that’s the case. Third in goals scored, third in on target attempts, and fourth in total attempts overall, the offense is on fire. The defense is equally as impressive with only 2 goals allowed so far. The Lions are very impressive defensively as well, with only 3 conceded in one more game. The 1 on 1 battles will be absolutely critical come this Saturday evening fixture.
Orlando City Stats
2-1-2, Top Goal Scorer: Urso, Top Assister: Pato/Ruan/Pereyra/Torres/Kara, DWLDW
3-0-1, Top Goal Scorer: Vela, Top Assister: Cifuentes, WWDWL
1. The Case of Pereyra
On the podcast this week we discussed Pereyra’s injury and what that could mean for the rest of the squad. For starters, he was carted off but appeared in practice this week in some fashion, which is good news at least. Was it a tactic to waste time and he actually just rolled his ankle? I guess we won’t know until it’s time, but if he is to miss action, the Lions will struggle to replace him. If the Lions keep the same formation, who fits the like for like swap at the 10 role. We discussed Pato sitting there with his technical skill, but it’s not his natural position. In my opinion, expect a formation change to combat the loss of this Lions midfielder.
2. Pato + Kara combination
To tie in to my last point, I really want to see Pato and Kara play together for a full match. If the lions do not change formation, put Kara at the top and have Pato sit in behind him, with Facu on one of the wings. If that doesn’t cook all game, I don’t know what will. Kara and Torres already seem to have some sort of chemistry building together and Kara is bound to open his goal scoring account for the Lions eventually. LAFC’s defense has been a sleeper defense this season (because so much attention is on their offense) so we will have to be tricky to successfully break them down. Kara’s big body should hopefully make things difficult for the central Lions defense, allowing Torres and Kara to do their thing off the ball.
3. Vela vs the Defense
Carlos Vela already has 4 goals on the season. 3 came in one match but it’s still impressive nonetheless. He seems like one of those players who can have 5 touches for the first 89 minutes and still have the confidence to bury a winner in the dying seconds. It will be a big test for Jansson and Carlos to contain him on Saturday. Jansson and Carlos have been one of the best center back pairings so far this season. In addition, Araujo has had a decent start sitting in the defensive midfield as well. I imagine they are up to the task, but time will tell, as Vela can really punish the Lions if he gets the opportunity.
A Look at LAFC
~ attacking and possession heavy 4-3-3 formation with fluid movement between midfield and front 3
~ natural fit for many players
~ Vela is a deadly attacker who already has 4 goals on the early season so far, big target for the defense to watch
~ Third in on target scoring attempts, third in goals scored, fourth in total goal scoring attempts on the season
1-1 draw in this match. Kara opens his goals scoring account for the Lions, while Vela on the other side gets his fifth. I trust our defense to keep us in this game but LAFC are a really fantastic side. I’m hoping we can fill Pereyra’s gap and still be creative going forward. Vamos!