Well, that was really awesome. Shoutout to Arsenal FC, the smallest [actually the largest but okay bud] club in London, for coming to Orlando and playing a preseason friendly. (Matt, who is typing this, is a Chelsea fan. Gavin is an Arsenal fan. Gavin leave this in please.) Regardless, it’s really cool seeing all these Premier League teams coming back to the USA for preseason. It was actually a decent showing for the Lions, with a great goal from Facundo, but it was all for the love of the game. However, it’s back to business on Saturday as they welcome Philadelphia Union to Exploria. Back in May, Orlando pulled off the upset and beat the Union in the US Open Cup Round of 16. This time around, the Union are sharp, full of quality, and sit at the top of the Eastern Conference. It’s been a shaky couple of weeks for Pareja and his men, with a lot of discussions involving his future. A bounceback result against the Union would surely quiet the noise for the foreseeable future.
Orlando City Stats (regular season)
8-7-6, Top Goal Scorer: Kara, Top Assister: Pereyra, DDWLD Philadelphia Union Stats
10-2-9, Top Goal Scorer: Gazdag, Top Assister: Wagner, WWWDL
Three Things 1. No Room For Error The Union are one of the most deadly teams in the league on either side of the ball. They have the third most accurate shooting percentage in the league at 40%, the fifth most goals scored with 33, and they’re fourth in the league in on-target scoring attempts with 102. Orlando’s offense is mediocre compared to that. While the Union work cohesively as a unit to create their attacks, the Lions rely much more on individual brilliance. It happened in Colorado, again in Atlanta, and even against Arsenal. It is hard to envision a game where Orlando can score more than one goal. Having said that, it’s extremely important we do not concede anything stupid. If the Union strings it all together, hats off to them. The backline needs to remain strong and really push Union to the edge Saturday.
2. This Time, a Draw is Good Orlando has a fascination with drawing teams this season so far. They have 6 of them to be exact, which is one of the higher numbers in the Eastern Conference. They’ve had 4 draws since the start of June. A lot of those draws were 3 points being knocked down to 1, instead of 0 being pushed up to 1. Fans have been frustrated with the draws and many have pointed to Pareja's game plan and tactics, stating how it is too passive and the team is consistently parking the bus. While I agree in some cases, on Saturday, a draw is a fantastic result. Whatever you can to get points against this group who has been steamrolling halfway through the season.
3. Keep Shining, Facundo A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how Facundo Torres needs to start stepping up and creating more chances for himself as opposed to others. In a time where we needed an offensive spark, he has stepped up. He has scored two brilliant individual goals recently, one vs the Rapids and one vs Arsenal. Even if the goals weren’t coming, you can notice in his individual play that he appears more confident. He still looks for a final through ball for someone, but he’s more willing to take on players and take chances for himself. Looking at the state of the attack right now, that quality is going to be needed. Pato and Kara don’t have the confidence/ability to create their own chances at the moment, and Pereyra is much more of a creator for others. The winger has been stepping up in a dim light and his skills are needed as the season continues.
A Look at the Union
~ Let’s be real, one of the best teams in the league, top of the Eastern
~ Lowest amount of goals conceded in the league, 15 in 21 games
~ fifth in goals scored (33) and fourth in on-target scoring attempts (102)
~ will most likely operate in a 4-4-2 with a diamond in the midfield
Prediction Union will win this one, even if they are traveling on the road and playing in crazy heat. They are too tough to break down and our offense isn’t clicking in a way that can disrupt them. For me, a 3-1 win seems likely for the visitors.