Orlando City SC will face Real Salt Lake on Sunday at the Orlando Citrus Bowl to start the 2016 campaign.
For Orlando this is their first competitive match of the year. The Lions will be looking to start the season of with a victory at home. That was a task they failed to complete in their home opener last season.
ORLANDO'S SECOND CONSECUTIVE TME OPENING THE SEASON AT HOME
In 2015 Orlando played their first match in Major League Soccer (MLS) at home against fellow expansion club, New York City F.C. However, the match did not go as plan, U.S. international and NYC midfielder Mix Diskerud gave the road team the 1-0 lead.
The Lions offense continued to push and search for the equalizer, but failed to cause any serious threat. They created 15 shots but only placed four of them on target against a weak New York defense. If it was not for Brazilian international and designated player Kaká scoring at the 91st minute to tie the game 1-1, the season would have gotten off to a disastrous to start.
LITTLE DULL HISTORY BETWEEN THESE TWO CLUBS
These two clubs faced each other one time last season and the match ended in a 1-1 draw. RSL hosted the Lions on July the fourth but Orlando’s goalkeeper then Tally Hall denied the home club fireworks with his six saves.
In fact Kaká gave the expansion side the early lead in the fifth minute of the match. However, Sebastián Jaime tied the game 1-1 at the 28th minute for RSL, after that the match became the Royals wasted opportunity show. Kaká receiving a red card became the highlight of the match.
However, Orlando is not facing the same RSL from 2015 on Sunday; this team is dangerous and has confidence. The Royals in the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) challenged the Liga MX powerhouse club, Tigres U.A.N.L in both matches. It took a stoppage time goal from Tigres to eliminate RSL from the tournament with a 3-1 aggregate.
THE LIONS ROAD TO VICTORY
The Lions offense on Sunday will need to execute their chances more accurately. The good news for the Lions is that Kevin Molino and the speedster Brek Shea are back and they will need to make an impact against the tested RSL side.
Their pace and creativity need to help Kaká break down the Royals defense. However, a key factor for the home club in this match will be that Real might be fatigued after two competitive matches with Tigres.
The most recent match was on Wednesday at Rio Tinto Stadium. Orlando will need to expose RSL’s mileage on Sunday. Canadian international Cyle Larin and Colombian designated player Carlos Rivas will need to put pressure on the tired back line.
The Lions dream is for newly signed Italian midfielder Antonio Nocerino to make his debut on Sunday, but he will most likely not be playing for Orlando since he just arrived on Friday.
Orlando will have to push through without him. If Orlando’s midfield cannot contain the dominance of the Royals offense they displayed in the CCL then it might turn into an ugly Sunday in Florida.
A DANGEROUS AND SICK RSL COMES TO ORLANDO
The attack of RSL’s is quick with their passes especially with the forwards. Yura Movsisyan and Joao Plata are constantly moving around with or without the ball. However, before the match even begins RSL is already in trouble of losing the game in Orlando.
According to RSL Soapbox, Javier Morales, Juan Manuel Martinez, Jamison Olave and Demar Phillips will most likely be out of action against the Lions. Since all four of them have been down and struggling with flu like symptoms. Plus center back Aaron Maund will not play due to the injury he picked up near his eye against Tigres on Wednesday. He went up to challenge for a ball with his head, but instead he clashed with the Tigres player head. Right above his left eye brow a bump instantly grew to the size of nearly a baseball.
With these injuries the bench of the Royals will need to step up. However, the other issue is if RSL manager Jeff Cassar has the faith in his reserves to perform at the Citrus Bowl. In the two quarterfinal matches against Tigres he only used a combined three subs. There were plenty of times when the Royals needed energy, but instead he stayed with the 11 he had on the field.
RSL will need to rely on veterans like Nick Rimando and Kyle Beckerman to push through and possibly get a result in Orlando. However, without those players on the road the 2016 campaign will begin rough for the Royals.