D.C. United has impressed thus far into the 2019 season, meeting just about any metric you could set forth. The midfield has been dominant, the defense hasn’t coughed up a single goal, the attack has put on a show, and the results have matched the quality of the performances. A game against Orlando City feels like one you’d expect a team like that to win, but historically games between these clubs have been very narrow decisions no matter how the teams are doing. With the Lions getting a big win last week over the Red Bulls, this game is probably going to be more difficult than one would expect at first glance.
Key player: Paul Arriola
There’s a virtuous circle going on with United’s attack: Wayne Rooney and Luciano Acosta draw so much attention that Arriola, Lucas Rodriguez, and everyone else find room to do damage, while at the same time that “everyone else” works super hard to make sure LuchoRoo has the space to do what they do best. One side’s work allows the other to thrive, and back and forth we go until the Black-and-Red win.
Orlando is most likely going to go back to the plan that got them their first win in 2019, and only their third win under James O’Connor: three center backs, a box midfield, and a completely clogged central region of the field. They’re not going to want to go toe-to-toe with United’s attack, and their top focus will be making sure Rooney and Acosta never get any space.
That’s where Arriola comes in. His relentless off-the-ball running is key to forcing the Lions to do more than simply flood zone 14 all game long. Maybe he draws enough attention to give that duo some extra space, or maybe they tee him up for looks at goal. Or hey, maybe it’s both!
Location: Orlando City Stadium (Orlando, FL)
Kickoff time: 6:30pm Eastern
Projected D.C. United starting 11: (4231) - Bill Hamid; Leonardo Jara, Frederic Brillant, Steven Birnbaum, Joseph Mora; Junior Moreno, Russell Canouse; Paul Arriola, Luciano Acosta, Lucas Rodriguez; Wayne Rooney
Bench: Chris Seitz, Jalen Robinson, Chris McCann, Chris Durkin, Ulises Segura, Zoltan Stieber, Quincy Amarikwa
There’s always a chance after 2 weeks off that Ben Olsen could have made a change to his starting eleven, but they’ve played pretty damn well so far, and the glut of midweek games doesn’t start until next week. Unless there’s a major surprise coming, expect the same lineup, same formation, and same overall gameday 18. The only addition to the injury report this week was Antonio Bustamante, and he’s been playing for Loudoun United on loan thus far in 2019.
Projected Orlando starting 11: (5221) - Brian Rowe; Ruan, Shane O’Neill, Lamine Sané, Robin Jansson, João Moutinho; Carlos Ascues, Uri Rosell; Sacha Kljestan, Nani; Dom Dwyer
There are a lot of possibilities here, as Orlando managed to win last week playing hyper-conservative soccer at Red Bull Arena. After their long troubled spell, playing the same way again makes some sense, but it’s hard to win at home going into a bunker. O’Connor could swap out individual players here (perhaps Will Johnson, who is listed as questionable, replacing Sané with Ascues playing center back), or a switch to 4231, or pushing the wingbacks up and playing a 3421 or 3412...
So yeah, a lot of possibilities. Dwyer might not start, for example, as they chose rookie Santiago Patiño to start last week.
Referee: Armando Villarreal
Available TV: Fox Sports 1, Fox Deportes
Available streaming: Fox Sports Go
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
What do we have to say about it?: We wrote a brief tribute to Junior Moreno’s wonderful start to the season, and talked about this game on this week’s episode of Filibuster. We’ll have predictions for you shortly, and Opposition 11 up after that.
What are you drinking?: I’m thinking some Patron añejo on the rocks, but I’m writing this the night before, so this is subject to change.
This is the place for all your pre-game, in-game, and post-game discussion. Vamos keeping the good times rolling!