The Impact faces Orlando City SC, this Saturday at 7:30pm at Camping World Stadium (RDS, TSN, 98,5fm & TSN Radio 690). Here are 10 things to know before the first game of the season against the Lions.
Orlando City is taking this game on with a few worries. After last weekend’s 2-1 loss at Kansas City, head coach Adrian Heath apologized for his players’ performance. Orlando has dropped 15 of the last 18 available points, with three ties and three losses.
Adrian Heath (14-17-13 all-time as Orlando City SC head coach in MLS) joined the club as head coach on February 21, 2008, back when the franchise was established in Austin, Texas. A midfielder in England and Spain from 1978 to 1997, Heath became player-manager at Burnley for his last season. After months-long stints as manager of Sheffield United (1999) and Coventry City (2005 and 2007), Heath joined Austin Aztex FC before the team moved to Orlando in 2010. In the lower divisions, its attack-minded game led Orlando City SC to three regular-season championships, two playoff championships and a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal.
Current top scorer
Cyle Larin and Kevin Molino (4)
Players to watch
1. Kaká (#10) – Even now that he’s 34, the 2007 Ballon d’Or can still take opponents on, give the right ball behind the backline and score.
2. Cristian Higuita (#7) – The Colombia international helps his backline brothers out. He recovers balls, and he wastes few passes.
3. Brek Shea (#5) – He’s still good-old attack-minded Brek Shea, the Orlando City full back. And he’s a force when you feed him as he runs into space.
Orlando wants to attack at pace and find wide spaces. This team scores its fair share of goals on crosses, high and low, and it has a couple of dynamic options going forward. But it all starts with a low block and a backline protected by rather static defensive midfielders that take few risks. Nocerino, on the left, strives to track back in front of Shea (sometimes dropping past him) or even to shift centrally to lock down the middle channels. In spite of this, Orlando has conceded many goals on crosses, especially down the opponent’s right side. Up the field, Molino works hard on the right and also cuts inside to provide options in the middle, giving Ramos opportunities to overlap and cross (two assists on such situations). Kaká goes where the ball will go – he creates numerous chances for his teammates. Larin is efficient in the box, but he can also drift wide right, allowing Molino to cut inside or Kaká to try his luck. Set plays are an issue, however; Orlando may have scored three set-piece goals in their last six outings, but they’ve conceded four during that time.
Adrian Heath seems to favour one-striker formations, 4-2-3-1 or 4-1-4-1. Lineup v. Kansas City (May 15): Bendik; Ramos, Mateos, Redding, Shea; Carrasco, Cerén; Molino, Kaká, Nocerino; Larin.
Against the Impact last season
The debut match between the Impact and Orlando, on March 28, 2015, at Olympic Stadium, was a 2-2 draw; Kaká and Pedro Ribeiro cancelled out the Impact’s early 2-0 lead in two minutes. Their first meeting at Stade Saputo, on June 20, featured Donny Toia’s first MLS goal and an insurance tally form Dominic Oduro in a 2-0 win. Then, on October 3, the Impact could have clinched an MLS Cup Playoffs spot, but Orlando won 2-1 on its home turf instead. Still, Montreal ended up making playoffs, unlike the Lions.
Injuries (as of May 18)
M Pedro Ribeiro (back surgery)
M Darwin Cerén (high ankle sprain)
D Seb Hines (knee – questionable)
Orlando City SC v Philadelphia Union (MLS, May 25)
New York City FC v Orlando City SC (MLS, May 29)
Orlando City SC v San Jose Earthquakes (MLS, June 18)