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The Other Guys: Orlando City

We infiltrated the Orlando den to find out what to expect from this weekend’s opponent

MLS: Toronto FC at Orlando City SC Matt Stamey-USA TODAY Sports

Ahead of the New York Red Bulls away game against Orlando City SC on Saturday, we asked Ben Miller of SB Nation sibling site The Mane Land a few questions about the latest Eastern Conference contender the Red Bulls will be tested against...

OaM: Orlando will be without their star attractions Nani and Alexandre Pato. Who will fill their roles in the lineup and who will have to step up to replace their production?

More likely than not we’ll see Tesho Akindele at striker and Silvester van der Water playing at wing in place of Nani. Last game that partnership was used to good effect, with the pair linking up for the only goal of the contest. With that being said, Akindele wasn’t able to make the most of a couple other really good chances he was presented with after opening the scoring, so more clinical finishing in front of goal would be great to see from him. Additionally, while Chris Mueller has two assists in six games he’s only taken four shots and has yet to score. Lions fans will be hoping he starts to be more involved on the offensive end and starts knocking in goals again.

OaM: Obviously Orlando had a great first season under Oscar Pareja, has he kept evolving the team or have things stayed largely the same early on in 2021?

So far I think the team has shown signs of evolving. OCSC hasn’t been able to play a first choice lineup since late August when Joao Moutinho went down with a groin injury. The Lions were without Moutinho, Ruan, Alexandre Pato, Uri Rosell, Nani, and Daryl Dike last weekend but still found a way to get the win. That in itself has been progress, and Orlando dropped a lot of points from winning positions down the stretch last year, and struggled at times to take all three points when not able to play its preferred attacking style. Being able to win in different ways is important, and so far the team seems to have gotten better at that.

OaM: If Orlando beats the Red Bulls on the road this weekend, how will they do it? Dropping back and defending? Getting on the front foot? Feeding certain players?

I think that largely depends on whether Moutinho and Ruan are able to play. If they’re fit then Orlando will look to get on the attack, feed those two down the wings and make an effort to be the protagonists by focusing on creating danger with the two fullbacks. If they still aren’t able to go then I would expect a bit more of a defensive approach, with the Lions looking to van der Water, Mueller and Mauricio Pereyra to do the heavy lifting in attack without utilizing the fullbacks the way they would prefer to. Ruan and Moutinho are hugely important to the ideal way Oscar Pareja wants to play and when they’re both injured the tactics have to change, especially because there isn’t a ton of fullback depth behind them.