The Philadelphia Union welcome a weakened Orlando City SC side to Talen Energy Stadium on Friday night. Despite missing the likes of Brek Shea through suspension, as well as Cyle Larin, Tommy Redding, Conor Donovan, and David Mateos through injury, Orlando currently sit atop the Eastern Conference as one of only two undefeated sides in Major League Soccer.
Having welcomed captain Kaka back from injury with a goal and two assists against incumbent MLS Cup champions, the Portland Timbers, Orlando look like a team on the up. However, given their slew of injuries and Philadelphia's record of one win and one draw all time against the Florida-based side, the Union will feel confidence heading into Friday night's match.
But how exactly can the Union defeat Orlando?
Given the absence of Rookie of the Year, Cyle Larin, the loaning of Bryan Rochez to Orlando City B, and the movement of Pedro Ribiero to midfield, Carlos Rivas is likely to lead the line against Philadelphia. Rivas has pace to spare as do midfielders Kevin Molino and Adrian Winter, combined with the phenomenal vision of Kaka who can spring a defense with a single pass, Orlando pose a significant threat to Philadelphia should the Union choose to press and leave space between the defense and the goalkeeper. As such, Philadelphia could find success against Orlando City should their defense sit deep and not allow Orlando space to run in behind. Furthermore. they can also cause trouble for Orlando on the counter attack, but more on that later.
Get at Aurélien Collin
Once one of the most feared defenders in MLS on both sides of the ball, Aurélien Collin's temper and injuries have largely gotten the better of him since his move to Orlando. With Tommy Redding, the man who replaced him in the starting lineup out with injury as well as backups Conor Donovan and David Mateos, Collin is the default option to partner Seb Hines in the center of defense. However, he's also the weakest line in said defense for a number of reasons. First and foremost, Collin has yet to play a single game this season through injury and poor form, as such he's bound to be rusty. Furthermore, his hot bloodedness and relative lack of pace also present issues. This is exactly why Philadelphia should target him specifically. Whether through the dribbling ability and pace of Ilsinho, or the height and strength of C.J. Sapong, the Union could have a field day against the France native.
Expose the Outside Backs on Counter Attacks
If there's one thing Orlando's outside defenders like to do, it is ironically enough... attack. Although Brek Shea will be missing with suspension, his replacement at left back, Luke Boden as well as right back, Rafael Ramos are in every sense the prototypical fullbacks who attack first and ask questions later. As such, they're prone to defensive mistakes as well as leaving space on the wings wide open that Philadelphia can and should expose on the counter attack. Philadelphia's wide midfielders Chris Pontius and Ilsinho are not the quickest, however they are probably the Union's most dangerous players regardless of pace, as such they could wreak havoc on a questionable Orlando defense.
While nothing is ever inevitable in soccer, particularly given how wild and unpredictable this MLS season has been, should Philadelphia follow these tactical tips they're likely to be heading for victory. Regardless of the result, one thing is certain: We're in for an exciting game.