The New York Red Bulls host their second game of the week at Red Bull Arena on Wednesday night. They take on another struggling side in Orlando City. The teams still hasn't lost at home since April 9th. Let's see if they can continue that streak. I spoke with Michael Citro of The Mane Land to get his opinion on the match.
Once a Metro: Adrian Heath was Orlando's manager since 2011 and helped them make the move from USL to MLS. What is the feeling from the fans on his sacking?
The Mane Land: There's a divide, for sure. Longtime fans are upset, particularly with the timing and circumstances. After all, the club was even on points for the last playoff spot with two games in hand on several teams above in the standings at the time of the firing. Heath did a lot to build this club and grow its popularity in Central Florida. People have a connection with him. And there's a feeling that majority owner Flavio Augusto da Silva is exerting power in a way the fans don't like and that this is just the latest example of that.
At this point, nothing will assuage a segment of the fan base unless the new coaching hire is a home run and gets results early on. In sports, winning is a salve for everything.
OaM: Orlando is sitting at 4-4-9. Nine draws is on pace with Chicago's record of 18 from 2014. They are only three points back of RBNY and could vault into a playoff spot with a win. How do they start turning these draws into wins?
TML: I get asked this just about every game and it's hard to answer because the draws have so many causes. Many have been due to just one or two moments of switching off at the back after an otherwise strong game, allowing the opponent to tie it up. A few have been a failure to get an insurance goal despite good opportunities to do so. Some have been from spirited comebacks that wouldn't have been needed if the club took its chances earlier in the game. And a few potential wins have been officiated into draws by a seemingly obvious call either being or not being made. Friday's 0-0 draw vs. Houston was a lack of quality in the attacking third.
There's not one good answer here. It could be just a matter of going out and scoring a couple early goals and playing with confidence as the team did when Portland visited. The Timbers were never really in that game.
OaM: RBNY has taken four points from Orlando during their two earlier matches this season. What has Orlando learned about their previous encounters with RBNY to stop that number from getting to five or seven?
TML: Hopefully the Lions have learned to move the ball quicker and more accurately out of the back to avoid turning the ball over against New York's high pressure. Hopefully, they've also learned not to concede dangerous set pieces, on which the Red Bulls excel. I'm sure they know about the quality of New York's players -- BWP, Kljestan, Grella, Dax, Felipe, etc. The best way to combat players like that is to possess the ball, move it quickly and accurately, and try to make them play from behind, which is hard to do against a team that has Robles.
OaM: Detail injuries/suspensions, predicted XI & scoreline.
TML: Kaká (calf), Tommy Redding (hamstring), Rafael Ramos (ankle), and Pedro Ribeiro (back surgery) are out.
Predicted XI: This is only Bobby Murphy's second match at the helm, so I'll stick with what he ran out Friday -- Joe Bendik; Luke Boden, David Mateos, Seb Hines, Kevin Alston; Cristian Higuita, Harrison Heath; Brek Shea, Kevin Molino, Darwin Ceren; Cyle Larin.
Predicted score: The Lions have been shut out in back-to-back matches after not having been blanked all season prior to July 4. With the quality missing in the midfield since Kaká's injury and Adrian Winter's departure, I think scoring a goal will be difficult. I think New York at home, despite recent results, will be able to get forward better than Houston did, and the Red Bulls' high pressure has created turnovers for Orlando this season, so I see that happening again and the Lions falling on the road, 2-1.
You can read Once a Metro's answers to The Mane Land's questions here.