The New York Red Bulls are in Orlando for their fourth game of MLS 2018. The match is expected to be RBNY’s first meeting with Sacha Kljestan since the former club captain was traded away in the service of the Red Bulls’ relentless drive for a younger squad that is optimized for its current tactical preferences.
The Mane Land’s Logan Oliver stopped by OaM to fill us in on Sacha’s progress with his new club, as well as provide a more general picture of OCSC in the early stages of the 2018 season.
Once A Metro: How’s Sacha doing?
Logan Oliver: We haven’t been able to see too much Sacha on the pitch yet, thanks to his suspension from the Jozy Altidore altercation. He made his debut against New York City FC and the offense as a whole never really got out of first gear. He’s quickly endeared himself off the field, though, bringing leadership and a winning mentality to the locker room.
OaM: After a number of high-profile signings in the off-season, it seemed likely Orlando would be one of the better teams in the East this year, once it got going. After one point from its first three games, it seems fair to say Orlando hasn’t really got going yet. What’s ailing the team, and how close to fixing it do you think Jason Kreis might be?
LO: It’s tough to know what to make of this team yet given City has played with a No. 9 for a total of 60 minutes this year. But the individual talent has obviously increased and Kreis and the rest of the front office have done a great job of identifying personnel deficiencies and signing talented players.
The defense has taken some giant steps forward by bringing in Lamine Sané from Werder Bremen, Libyan left back Mohamed El-Munir, and the athletic Amro Tarek. The midfield will take time to jel but the improved quality on the ball and creativity is apparent. The biggest issue has been the offense and how much of that is down to lacking a striker and how much is players not being on the same page is tough to say right now. With Dom Dwyer slated to return this weekend, perhaps we’ll get some answers.
It feels like the Lions are close to putting a really good team together but it’s up to Kreis to make all of the puzzle pieces fit at this point.
OaM: It’s not hard to predict RBNY’s game plan these days. How do you expect Orlando to approach this game? Play to its own strengths/preferred style, or tailor its tactics to the opponent?
LO: So far this year, Orlando has tried to dictate the game at home and utilize the plethora of skilled passers at its disposal to dominate possession. It’s taken the Lions a few minutes to get into the game, however, and so far they have ended up down in the first half because of it.
Kreis has utilized the diamond for the first three matches but with Josué Colmán and Dom finally available maybe that changes. The Lions struggled a bit with the press against New York City FC so we’ll see if Kreis has made some adjustments to combat that this weekend.
OaM: Known injuries/suspensions, predicted lineup and score?
LO: Jonathan Spector is out with a concussion and Uri Rosell had a setback with his knee injury and will also miss this week. Justin Meram has been on international duty with Iraq and will be available but likely won’t start.
Lineup in a 4-4-2 diamond:
Joe Bendik; Scott Sutter, Lamine Sané, Amro Tarek, Mohamed El-Munir; Cam Lindley; Yoshimar Yotún, Will Johnson; Sacha Kljestan; Josué Colmán, Dom Dwyer
With Wright-Phillips on a hot streak and our offense still an unknown, I’ll say 2-1 to the Red Bulls.