Location: Allianz Field
Time: 8:00 PM EST
Recent Result: MIN 1 - 0 COL
Position: 2nd in the West
A big match looms for the Lions as they face off against former head coach Adrian Heath's 2nd place Loons. Minnesota have had a solid season and will look to build on it with another strong performance at home this weekend. Meanwhile, Orlando City find themselves in a fight for the playoffs, sitting just outside the 7th place position on nothing more than games won. Orlando has 9 while Montreal have 10, therefore they edge us in that respect. Both teams come into this game in decent form, with Orlando earning 7 points from its last 3 MLS games while Minnesota has 6 from their last 3 games. This should be a cracking game and one that may be decided in the final 10 minutes if both teams remain deadlocked before then.
Per MLS Injury Report:
ORL: Higuita (hamstring), Moutinho (hamstring), Ruan (hamstring)
No word on Smith from the official website but if reports are to be believed, he has not suffered a concussion and only needed 6 stitches, so that is a positive. It is being reported that Pereyra is available for selection this game, so expect to see him on the substitutes bench as I doubt he will start. As for the opponents, they have no injury worries but will still be without forward Mason Toye after he was suspended an extra game for spitting at an opponent late on against FC Dallas. Orlando currently have no suspensions.
Keys to the Game
1. Defend Defend Defend
It's going to be one of those nights. Minnesota love to attack and take plenty of shots, so defending will be of importance here. Clearing the ball properly, being in the correct position, and some luck will go a long way if we are going to come out of this game with a result. The good thing is, Minnesota may struggle against a tactic like this. They just played Colorado at home and had 27 shots (9 on target) but only 1 goal. We have shown that we can withstand heavy pressure similar to this. Portland hit 26 shots toward us and Philadelphia hit 21; we only conceded 3 goals from those 47 shots and 2 of them came from poor defensive plays late on. It is paramount that Orlando focus on the defensive side of this game.
2. Counter Press the Midfield
Minnesota are not the strongest team in possession and are prone to a poor giveaway or 2 each game. If we press their midfield trio with speed, a mistake may fall our way. We would then do what we've done all season and sprint up the field on the counter looking to score. This will also be crucial when we have control of the ball. When we lose it, we will have to immediately send numbers to the ball and that will limit their time on it, causing us to keep the pressure on their back line. If we do this tactic correctly (as we have done for most of the season), we could very well take control of this game and force Minnesota to leave their comfort zone.
3. Winning the Aerial Battle
Minnesota are poor in the air as they have several "smaller" players in their team. With Jansson and Sane, this shouldn't be a problem. This could however be our best bet to come out of this with a win. With set pieces being a great way to show your aerial dominance, we could find ourselves nicking a goal off a corner or free kick from out wide. In terms of defensively, Minnesota like to attack the flanks. That means they will send loads of crosses into our box. If we win the aerial battle, we shouldn't have to worry too much about a header flying into our net *knock on wood*.
Here is my predicted lineup for tomorrow. Johnson and Mendez have missed the last 2 games, so I fully expect them to start tomorrow. Mueller was pulled off at halftime midweek and he will probably be the senior figure in a young front three. Finally, I'm expecting the back 4 to stay the same as they have done well and only conceded 1 goal in their last 2 games together. That goal came off of a set piece so I'm confident that they can put in another strong performance.
Prediction: 3-1 loss.
It sounds harsh and it probably is, but I said 3-1 on the pod midweek and I'm going to stick with it. Minnesota are a strong team and their is a reason why they are 2nd in the Western Conference. I can see us struggling similar to how we struggled against New England on the road. Hopefully I'm wrong.
'Til next time, this has been Gavin Rushnell and #VamosOrlando.