Preview: Charlotte FC (h).
When? Saturday April 30, 4.30 p.m. PT, 7.30 p.m. ET and 00:30 BST (1/5).
Where? Exploria Stadium, Orlando, FL.
How can I catch the action? The game is being broadcast via MLS Live on ESPN+ and DAZN for residents of the United States. For those in the central Florida region, Fox 35 Plus and LionNation TV. Radio broadcast is available locally on Real Radio 104.1 and Accion 97.9 FM. The game is not currently scheduled for UK broadcast.
After the disaster that was the Red Bulls game this game is arguably the best chance for Orlando to right that wrong. Don't get me wrong, Charlotte are a dangerous opponent. But, obviously a chance to correct our recent home form so quickly is a welcome opportunity, against a team that hasn't traveled particularly well so far in MLS.
Obviously the performance against the Red Bulls wasn't acceptable. We all know that. The team knows that; it's something they've spoken about this week. I expect to see an Orlando team with a bit of fire in its belly. This is not a squad that takes defeats well. If you look back at our defeats to FC Cincinnati and LAFC, Orlando reacted with wins over the Galaxy and Chicago.
'We were obviously sad and disappointed about the result over the weekend, but we just continue to work hard and try to make that right. Hopefully we're able to do that this weekend' Facundo Torres
With all that being said, let's get stuck into what's going to be a vitally important game for the Lions.
As with many expansion sides, Charlotte are still trying to establish their identity as a Major League Soccer side. They certainly have a plethora of experience in their ranks, with the likes of Anton Walkes, Alan Franco and Christian Fuchs among their ranks. Having seen them play a couple of times this season, it's hard to determine with a huge degree of certainty what Miguel Ángel Ramírez's team are all about. And the stats back that up; they rank 16th in MLS for passing accuracy, 14th for turnovers in the attacking third and 23rd for big chances created (figure 1).
Figure 1 shows Charlotte's ranking for big chances created.
The only thing I would say is that they look like they're trying to set up to be a team that's hard to beat. Which is easy to understand with the defensive assets they possess and their ability to play out from the back, which was something I noticed in their game against the Rapids. Both full-backs looked to press on (figure 2), whilst Brandt Bronico would drop in front of the back 4 and try to build through the middle (figure 3). Their preferred 4-1-3-2 is perfect for this, with Bronico almost assuming a quarterback role. Stopping him could be the key.
Figure 2 shows the heatmap for Joseph Mora and Jaylin Lindsey against the Rapids, whole 90.
Figure 3 shows Charlotte's passing network graphic, against the Rapids, whole 90.
Vinicius Mello and Chris Hegardt are out, according to the MLS player availability report. Kamil Jozwiak, the Polish midfielder signed from League One outfit Derby County (I enjoy saying that, as a Forest fan), is listed as questionable due to illness. Adam Armour and Yordy Reyna are also listed as questionable.
As for Orlando City, Antonio Carlos remains out. Thomas Williams was out of training on Wednesday, as was Alex Freeman. Michael Halliday is on international duty. Tesho Akindele is a doubt.
Edit: 4/28, Thomas Williams is now back in training, as is Michael Halliday.
Possible starting XI
Charlotte typically utilise a 4-1-3-2 formation, which can become a 4-3-3 during transition moments. I would expect to see an unchanged line-up this week, given that they've had a full weeks rest and were fairly resolute in grabbing a point in Colorado.
The veteran defender is enjoying his first taste of MLS action in Charlotte. The former Leicester City and Schalke 04 defender has been operating primarily as a centre back this season. Through his 9 games, he's totalled 810 minutes, he has a passing accuracy rate of 79%, has won 43% of his tackles, completed 33 clearances and 15 interceptions.
Charlotte have started their first MLS season in an inauspicious manner away from home. Contrary to their imperious form at home, the North Carolina based club have yet to win on their travels. Indeed they have lost 4 straight on the road in MLS (although they did win 2-1 at Greenville Triumph in the US Open Cup). Charlotte currently sit 8th in the east, with a 3-1-5 record.
Orlando, on the other hand, have lost 3 of their last 4 at Exploria Stadium. The Lions remain 3rd with a 4-2-3 record.
Cover image courtesy of Orlando City SC.