D.C. United takes on Orlando City SC this weekend, and to preview the game we talked to Michael Citro of The Mane Land. You can find his answers to my questions below, and my answers to his will be up on The Mane Land soon.
B&RU: So what has happened to Orlando City since they last met with D.C. United? How badly have the wheels fallen off?
tML: It’s really hard to say. The team just can’t seem to put the ball in the net this season and even when the Lions have outplayed the competition, one mistake can be their undoing. That was obviously not the case last weekend at New England, when they were just plain bad, but recent games against Columbus and Vancouver showed the team can still put in effort, create chances, play well, and still figure out a way to lose because the ball just won’t go in. Empty net? We hit a post or miss the target. Shot through traffic? Hits a leg or a teammate and deflects just wide.
For much of the season, the main problem was the midfield not connecting with the strike force. This was understandable as Jason Kreis was playing three defensive midfielders in a 4-4-2 (Will Johnson, Cristian Higuita, and Antonio Nocerino). In recent games, however, the team has gone more offensive-minded and the connections and chance creation seem to be there but it’s still not clicking.
B&RU: If things don't turn around, is Jason Kreis in trouble?
tML: Yes, but I think he’ll see out this season and get into next. I expect the club will give Kreis another transfer window and into next season to see how things go. I think he’d like to get younger and faster in the midfield and so we’ll have to see what happens with Kaká’s expiring contract. It would be nice to have an Almiron type to come in and replace the Brazilian. But then, wouldn’t every team like to have one of those?
Kreis and GM Niki Budalic have done well in the past two transfer windows addressing the team’s biggest needs. I think one more window should afford them enough roster churn to give the coach the options he wants in the starting lineup and off the bench. If things are still bad by next year’s All-Star break, there will have to be a change.
B&RU: What do you want to see the team do with the balance of the season?
tML: For starters, win a game. This team has gone eight straight without taking all three points. It has won only twice since April, when it was standing atop the Supporters Shield standings. That feels like it was not only a decade ago, but also in some alternate reality or in another galaxy. Far, far away.
Aside from that, it would be good to see young players like Richie Laryea and Pierre Da Silva get some starts to see if they’re ready to be part of the senior squad next year.
B&RU: Injuries/starting 11/prediction
tML: Jose Aja is suspended after being sent off last week. It appears that Jonathan Spector (knee) will be out again this week. Backup keeper Josh Saunders (neck surgery) and midfielder Richie Laryea (hamstring) are out. Will Johnson is suspended by the league following an arrest Wednesday on allegations of domestic violence, because the last few months haven’t been miserable enough.
I think the starting lineup will look like this:
Joe Bendik; Donny Toia, Leo Pereira, Tommy Redding, Scott Sutter; Yoshimar Yotún, Kaká, Cristian Higuita, Giles Barnes; Dom Dwyer, Cyle Larin.
Prediction: 2-0 D.C. United, and I hate you for making me type what I think.