Ahead of D.C. United’s visit to Florida to take on Orlando City SC, we found ourselves with some questions about the Lions. What do you do when you have some questions? You go ask somebody! So we checked in with The Mane Land (the OCSC version of what we do here), and the site’s managing editor Michael Citro filled us in:
Since Orlando City has been eliminated from the playoffs, what do you want to see Jason Kreis do with this final game of the 2016 season?
If the Philadelphia game was any indication, Kreis will use the match to test players to see how they adapt to a shape he prefers and he’ll want to get a last look in a competitive environment at some players who maybe haven’t been on the field as much since his arrival due to injury. Against the Union, the Lions came out in a 4-4-2 instead of the usual 4-2-3-1 we’ve become accustomed to. He also used Mikey Ambrose and Rafael Ramos at fullback – both are young, speedy players with a lot of upside but short on experience. Both played OK, if unspectacular, soccer.
Aside from that, Kreis wants to see guys play like they want to be in Orlando next season. Carlos Rivas, who has been fairly disappointing so far with that Young Designated Player tag attached to his name, responded with a big game in Philadelphia. The gaffer will want to see more performances like that and he’ll let his players know that he’s watching for effort.
Speaking of Kreis, what does he need to do in this offseason and what direction do you want to see the team go?
There are two things Kreis will want to do this off-season. First, he’ll want to bring in some MLS veteran players who have been around the league and know what it takes to win in this league. His preference will be to grab players who know and can play well in his system. With Ned Grabavoy announcing his retirement, that probably takes him off the table, but we may see other players like that from Kreis’ past come to Orlando. Second, he’ll want to build the team’s depth, especially on the back line, where the Lions have been abysmal at times.
Personally, I’d like to see the team go out and spend money on fullbacks. I think the David Mateos/Jose Aja pairing can be an effective central defense combination (assuming Aja’s loan is extended or made permanent) but there has been little help defensively from the wide players who have left the center backs largely on an island to defend pacey players in space way too often. Ramos and Ambrose have the pace to fill those roles but not the experience and I’d love to see the club find someone with experience to fill those roles while bringing the young guys along slowly. I’d also like to see the team get younger and faster in the attacking midfield. Kaká and Matias Perez Garcia are both still very good players but both are north of 30 and a 34-game season is too much of a grind for them at their age. The problem is that there aren’t great options to spell them.
Kevin Molino and Brek Shea are both 26. Molino can be a terrific player if he buys in defensively and avoids the lapses in his own half to which he is prone. Shea busts his tail his entire time on the pitch but he’s prone to clumsy challenges and unnecessary yellow cards, and, at his salary, he cannot be a backup.
Lastly, Kreis will need to bring in striker depth if he’s changing to his preferred formation.
What has changed with Orlando City since we last met a few weeks ago?
The main thing is the team has stopped hemorrhaging goals. After surrendering 12 goals in three games (exactly four each against LA, Columbus and D.C.), the Lions have shipped only one goal in the last three matches and kept two away clean sheets in a row. The team on the field has looked better in possession and has done a much better job of playing team defense to keep the danger to a minimum, and Joe Bendik has done the rest. Other than that, there’s not much different, other than a healthy Rafael Ramos and Cristian Higuita have found their way back into the lineup.
It’s very difficult predicting Jason Kreis’ lineup as he gets more experimental, so I’ll just predict the same lineup as we saw against Philadelphia:
Joe Bendik; Mikey Ambrose, Seb Hines, Jose Aja, Rafael Ramos; Kaká, Antonio Nocerino, Cristian Higuita, Matias Perez Garcia; Carlos Rivas, Cyle Larin.
Orlando City is playing much better of late but D.C. United seems to be hitting its stride. I predict the Lions close out the season the way it began, with a 2-2 draw.
To see the questions The Mane Land had for us (and Ben’s answers), click here.