Its been awhile since Vancouver faced off against Orlando City SC so we caught up with our good friend Michael Citro over at The Mane Land to get an idea of what is going down in central Florida.
1. It's been a tough couple of matches for Orlando and they're now below the red line after being a shoo-in (in my mind) for a playoff spot. What changes might Jason Kreis be trying Saturday to get things turned around?
TML: I don’t think we’ll see much in the way of changes, aside from having to replace the injured Will Johnson (ankle sprain, out 2-4 weeks). It’s likely that Cristian Higuita takes Will’s spot in the starting XI, and possibly Dom Dwyer will get his first home start since the trade, after coming off the bench last week, in which he didn’t train much while waiting for a custom mask to protect his face post-surgery. Dom tossed the mask aside after being out there a while anyway, so he might as well have trained fully last week.
Anyway, I think we’ll see the same basic lineup and tactics, because the team has shown some signs of life the last few games since acquiring Dwyer and Yoshimar Yotun late in the transfer window. The first half at New York was completely bossed by Orlando but an own-goal and some adjustments by the Red Bulls turned that game around. Last week the Lions were in control most of the 90+ minutes but conceded first on a set piece and then just couldn’t find the back of the net despite a number of good chances, settling for a 1-1 draw on a goal by former Whitecap Giles Barnes.
2. Orlando raised a lot of eyebrows by going out and getting Dom Dwyer from Sporting Kansas City. How has he been fitting in and what should Vancouver be doing to stop him?
TML: The word I’d use is “slowly,” although it’s not Dom’s fault. Dwyer showed up in time to make one appearance, then jetted off to Chicago for the MLS All-Star Game. He met the team in Montreal for the game there and played, but then he had to get surgery for a knock to the nose he suffered at Atlanta, missing the New York game. Last week, as I mentioned, he didn’t fully train with the whole group while waiting for the protective mask, and then came off the bench in the match against the Crew.
Dwyer seems beyond excited to be back in purple, where he made his mark in 2013 by helping the Lions win the USL championship before emerging as an MLS star. He’s brought an energy to the group that was lacking during the summer slide and it seems like it’s only a matter of time before he opens his Orlando City MLS account.
To stop Dwyer, Vancouver needs to stay organized and communicate well, because he seems to slip into dangerous areas before you know he’s there. He has that nose for where the ball is going, as he showed in tying up the All-Star Game before MLS lost in penalties. But if the Whitecaps pay too much attention to Dwyer, Cyle Larin can shake free and hurt you, so it’s going to require a 90-minute effort of concentration in the Florida heat and humidity after traveling cross-country. The best defense against Orlando this season is just sitting back and watching the Lions miss the net or having a hot goalkeeper.
3. Many Vancouver fans also know and love Cyle Larin for his role on the Canadian National Team. What is Cyle's long term future in Orlando and do you think he'll be off to Europe before too long?
TML: Orlando City owns two one-year options on Larin’s contract, so he’ll only be going if the club gets the right deal. I spoke to GM Niki Budalic earlier this week and asked about Cyle and was told that formal offers have been made by European clubs but so far no one has really come close to what the club is asking, which is believed to be around $5 million as a starting point.
If someone offers $5 million this off-season, I think Cyle will be gone. Barring that, the Lions will hold onto Larin until they at least get into that ballpark.
Injuries: Jonathan Spector (knee) and Will Johnson (ankle) are out. Everyone else should be available, as Kaká returns from the dumbest red card suspension MLS has ever dished out for rubbing his buddy Aurelien Collin’s face at New York deep in stoppage time to try to calm tensions between the teams.
Starting XI will likely be: Joe Bendik; Donny Toia, Leo Pereira, Tommy Redding, Scott Sutter; Yoshimar Yotun, Cristian Higuita, Antonio Nocerino, Kaká; Dom Dwyer, Cyle Larin.
Prediction: I am on record as saying I can’t predict an Orlando City win until they show me another win, so I’ll say 1-1 draw.