D.C. United has beaten Orlando City SC twice this season, but the Floridian newcomers have not made things easy on the Black-and-Red. Their first visit to the Sunshine State saw Bill Hamid put on a spectacular display to keep the game scoreless before Luis Silva stole the points with a stoppage time free kick. The second match was a bit different - Orlando continues to insist they deserved points from a game in which they created little and were plainly outplayed - but the fact remains that United entered the final 20 minutes down 1-0.
There's also the fact that OCSC has made big progress since last playing United. Orlando is unbeaten in 4 games, winning twice, and last week scored twice in the final 10 minutes to win in Chicago (a result that may have major playoff implications down the road). The Lions are full of confidence right now, and rightly or wrongly they feel that it's time to get one over on United.
Key player: Perry Kitchen
Orlando has had some bad luck against United. The best individual performance by a DC player - and possibly across the entire league this year, though Sebastian Giovinco got himself into the argument last week - in 2015 was Hamid's "none shall pass!" outing in the Black-and-Red's first visit to the Citrus Bowl. The second best? Kitchen's complete dominance of the midfield when the Lions came up to RFK, a game in which Kaka contributed next to nothing from open play.
Given that a goalkeeper standing on his head necessarily means the rest of the team isn't effectively containing the opponent, I'm going with Kitchen here. United can't allow anything remotely resembling their last trip to Florida, and that means being better further up the field. We've seen Kitchen lead the way in nullifying Orlando's 3v2 central midfield numerical advantage, but that was at home. The Black-and-Red are going to need to repeat that trick again, and the most important player in that equation is Kitchen.
Key question: Can United put together a full 90 minutes?
We've been going on and on about the difficulties United's schedule has provided. 14 games in May and June, including the recent string of 5 in 15 days. This week, United had several days off and had plenty of time to both recharge and to actually prepare in detail for an opponent rather than have one training session to cover that last task.
Of course, time to do something doesn't mean it will be done that well. United will have fresh legs for the first time in ages, and some injured players are potentially going to be back as well. That sounds great, but we need to see United improve on some things beyond healing and recuperating. DCU fell behind in three straight games before taking that early lead against TFC last Saturday, and in that last game they spent the final 30 minutes of the first half under withering pressure from the visitors.
Orlando is a bit prone to swings in confidence, and right now they're feeling very good about themselves. Another poor first half is going to make picking up points very tricky on what will be a brutally hot, humid day in Florida. After taking this week to get some juice back in their collective legs, there are no excuses. United needs to turn in a first half to match their characteristically good second halves.
Match date/time: Sunday 6/14, 7:00pm Eastern
Venue: Citrus Bowl (Orlando, FL)
TV: Fox Sports 1 (English), Fox Deportes (Spanish)
Online: Fox Sports Go (English)
Check back in two hours for our gamethread.