- Gavin Rushnell
Sporting KC Match Preview
Location: Exploria Stadium
Time: 7:30 PM EST
Where to Watch: ESPN+, YouTube TV
Recent Result: SKC 1 - 2 RSL
Position: 10th in the West
Wednesday couldn't come soon enough. Orlando is back in play at Exploria Stadium against Dom Dwyer's old club Sporting KC in yet another must win game for the Lions. This is definitely a game where we will be licking our chops in order to get 3 points. SKC have been struggling all year and find themselves outside the playoff race for the first time since 2010. It's been a rough year for the team who were top of the West last season and tipped as the best team to challenge Atlanta or New York Red Bulls for the MLS Cup. This season has seen an ugly fall from grace that lands them 8 points away from the playoff line with equal games played. We have to take advantage of this. Luckily, we haven't lost to them in our home stadium, so let's keep it that way. Here is some team news and your 3 keys to the game (this is a new concept, let me know your thoughts on it please).
Per MLS Injury Report:
Orl: Higuita (hamstring), Moutinho (hamstring), Ruan (hamstring)
SKC: Wallace (hip surgery), Duke (hamstring), Zendejas (back), Barath (back), Nemeth (abdominal), Fernandes (ankle, questionable).
You can see why they've struggled. Loads of injuries to good squad players has tested their depth and it is taking its toll. For us, we are still without all-time appearance leader Higuita while Moutinho and Ruan are added to the list after picking up hamstring injuries.
Keys to the Game
1. SKC's Approach
It's weird to make a "key to the game" that is dependent on the other team but for this one I deem it necessary. How SKC look at this game is key to whether we will win it or not. Will SKC look at this as an opportunity against an equally poor opponent to get a good result on the road and look to make a late playoff push? Or will they look ahead and see that they have 2 big games against Western high-flyers San Jose and Minnesota United? More importantly, that San Jose game is at home this upcoming Saturday, a whopping 3 days after their away fixture in Orlando. I'm thinking the former but they will surely have an eye on that Saturday game, so expect a little rotation against us. If that is so, we can take full advantage and run them off the park.
2. Keep them in front of us
SKC have played a possession style of football this season but they have been their strongest at counter attacking opponents, very similar to FC Dallas. If we keep the ball in front of our defense, we shouldn't have too many problems. They won't have a lot of opportunities to counter and will mainly play sideways passes looking for a breakthrough with a couple over-the-top through balls. They have looked to get beyond the defensive line with those dangerous through balls but have had varying degrees of success. As long as we keep the ball in front of us, we shouldn't have too many issues to deal with defensively.
3. Focus on Set Pieces
SKC will definitely look at set pieces as a way to steal something out of this game. We have been pretty good at defending them this season but set pieces have been SKC's strong suit this season. We must make sure we remain focused during these plays to make sure we come out of the game with all 3 points.
SKC have allowed their opponents to create opportunities frequently all season and that shouldn't change tonight. We will create opportunities and should score them. SHOULD score them. Focusing more on the defensive side of this game should be enough as the offense should take care of itself due to our opponents allowance of chances on goal this season.
I think we will go with a 4-2-3-1 again with the same back 4 as last time out against Toronto. They did a very good job and if it wasn't for a poor foul by Michel, we may have gotten a clean sheet out of the game. We are without Ruan, Moutinho, and Higuita as shown earlier so that is why they are all left out. As for the attack, nothing crazy here in this lineup. I expect JOC to allow Dwyer to play against his former team from the start and to give Mueller a rest and use him as a super sub. Kljestan gets the nod at the CAM position as Pereyra shouldn't be ready to start yet. I do however expect to see him on the bench and possibly getting a 5-10 minute debut cameo at the end of the game if all is going well.
Prediction: 2-0 Win
I believe we can come in against a weak SKC team and get a comfortable win. Let me know your predictions for the game @oclionsblog on Instagram and Twitter or right here down below.
'Til next time, this has been Gavin Rushnell and #VamosOrlando.