Preview: Charlotte FC (a).
When? Sunday August 21, 4 p.m. PT, 7 p.m. ET and midnight BST.
Where? Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC.
How can I catch the action? The game is being broadcast via MLS Live on ESPN+ and DAZN for residents of North America. For Central Florida residents it's Fox 35 Plus and LionNation TV as well as 96.9 The Game and Accion 97.9 (radio commentary). For us UK folk the game is being broadcast on Premier Sports.
Orlando City head into this vitally important game against Charlotte, eager to revive their play-off hopes and build a little momentum ahead of their vitally important US Open Cup final in September.
Although the Lions ground out a win in New Jersey last weekend, they were far from convincing. Charlotte are only a point further back than ourselves, as we currently occupy the last play-off spot. Defeat would be a disaster for Orlando City.
Charlotte have had a memorable first season so far in MLS. It's never easy in your first season, but the North Carolina based club have performed admirably thus far. In my opinion, they're a well balanced team that just needs to find a little more at both ends of the pitch.
They're a team that are comfortable in possession, but are probably not as stern in defence as they would like to be; they've averaged 52.6% of the overall play (figure 1), but have conceded an average of 1.5 goals per game (figure 2). It's not an awful number, but it's probably been the difference maker for them. The margins in this league are really tight; they're below Orlando in the league, despite winning more games. Scoring a couple more goals, and conceding a couple less could be the difference between this team making the play-offs or finishing outside of them.
Figure 1 shows Charlotte's average possession ranking.
Figure 2 shows Charlotte's goals conceded per game ranking.
Charlotte are set to be without Vinicius Mello and Adam Armour through injury, whilst Kerwin Vargas is listed as questionable.
Orlando City, on the other hand, are definitely without Joey DeZart. Ercan Kara is still listed as questionable, but is actually available. Pato is out. There are no other fitness concerns for Oscar Pareja. Joao Moutinho is suspended.
This section will be updated as new information becomes available.
Possible starting XI
I expect Charlotte to rotate a bit, given that they played in midweek. As such, I can see them lining up a little something like this:
The legendary former Leicester City defender has performed well during his time in North Carolina. The defender has scored 3 times in 22 games, as well as putting up some impressive defensive numbers. The Austrian full-back has completed 62 clearances, 31 interceptions, 39 headed clearances and has won 20 tackles. Has an overall rating of 6.9 on fotmob.com, which is respectable. He provides balance and an ability to break lines when playing against a press. Solid player.
Charlotte have been in iffy form lately. They've been solid enough in their debut season, but a run of 3 defeats in 5 has left them a point below the play-off line. Charlotte currently has a 10-2-14 record. They really don't do draws!
Orlando, on the other hand, injected a modicum of like into their season with that win over the Red Bulls. Still, it's 1 win in 6 MLS games. And with only 9 games to go, this game feels crucial.
*All statistics courtesy of fotmob.com.
Cover image courtesy of Orlando City SC.
Media availability footage and b-roll courtesy of Orlando City SC.
Line-up graphic courtesy of chosen11.com.