As few predicted to the beginning of the season, Orlando and Philadelphia will be battling for first place in the MLS Eastern Conference Friday night.
With a win, Orlando, currently on eight points, could continue an impressive early season performance and climb right into the thick of the very early Supporter’s Shield race. Last week, Orlando dominated current MLS Cup champions Portland Timbers, 4-1, thanks to a two assist and one goal performance behind the magical Kaka. It was Kaka’s first game of the season, but the legendary Brazilian continued where he left off last season with his stellar passing and knack for goal.
Orlando City Hobbles into Philadelphia with Multiple Injuries
However, it was not all good news for Orlando. The MLS Disciplinary Committee suspended fullback Brek Shea this week for a rough and dangerous challenge on Portland’s Damon Asprilla.
To add, Orlando forward Cyle Larin pulled up short in the team’s win on Sunday with an apparent hamstring injury. He was subbed out of the game in the 24th minute for Servando Carrasco. Larin is in serious jeopardy of missing Friday’s game, if Orlando Head Coach Adrian Heath tries to play it safe with the budding MLS star forward. On the defensive side, defender Tommy Redding will miss Friday’s game with a head injury.
Even with Shea, Redding and possibly Larin forced to miss the match, Philadelphia’s task will still be a difficult one to grab a result against Kaka and Orlando.
Union Look to Bounce Back After Missed Opportunities
For the Union, the team will try to grab a positive result after last Saturday’s 1-0 defeat in Chicago. In Saturday’s loss, Philadelphia looked at times like the better side, but were unable to find a goal despite multiple shots off the post. Against a potent offensive side such as Orlando, Philadelphia cannot let the same opportunities go to the wayside.
Head Coach Jim Curtin will certainly have a large selection choice to make ahead of Friday’s game. Defensive midfielder Warren Creavalle will be suspended for Friday’s game due to his red card received against Chicago.
With a spot open in the double pivot, Curtin could opt to go with Vincent Nogueira or Roland Alberg to pair alongside Brian Carroll. If Curtin opts for Alberg to play with Carroll in the double pivot, the central attacking midfielder role will open up for Tranquillo Barnetta to make his first start of the season.
For the defense, expect Curtin to go with what has worked across the back: Fabinho, Ken Tribbett, Richie Marquez and Keegan Rosenberry. Behind the Philadelphia back four will be almost certainly be Andre Blake.
One player to watch here is Fabinho. Fabinho has had an up and down start to the season. When at his peak, Fabinho has been the missing piece on offense by overlapping with the midfielders as well as sending in service for his offensive counterparts in addition to stellar defense. At his valleys, the Brazilian fullback has been nothing short of a liability on defense and a non-factor on offense.
Kickoff is scheduled 7 PM EST at Talen Energy Stadium (TV: UniMas).