Preview: D.C. United (a).
When? Sunday, May 16 5 p.m. PT, 8 p.m. ET and 1 a.m. BST (17/5).
Where? Audi Field, Washington, D.C.
How can I catch the action? The game will be broadcast nationally on MLS Live via ESPN+ and DAZN for citizens of the United States. For us UK folk, the game is being broadcast on FreeSports (FreeView channel 64) and via the FreeSports app.
Matches involving these two clubs have thrown up some real classic moments over the last few years. Personally I was disappointed not to receive vindication, for THAT Rooney play, over the weekend as his Derby County side narrowly avoided relegation from the EFL Championship. But, hey. What can you do? This is a series that our opponents have dominated over the last 5 meetings in MLS, with D.C. taking 4 wins. The 1-1 draw in March 2018 was the last time the Lions took points from a game against D.C. The only victory we have had in that time, actually came in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, with James O'Connor's team winning 4-2 in a penalty shootout. The round-of-16 time preceded that amazing 'Running of the Wall' victory over NYCFC in the quarter finals.
Hernán Losada has endured a tumultuous time in his tenure so far, in 2021. D.C. have suffered 3 consecutive defeats, and will be looking to get back to winning ways soon. Regardless of form, no game in MLS is an easy one. Orlando City will have to be on their game to emerge from this tie with 3 points.
D.C. United's style
In many ways, D.C. United are something of an unknown quantity. After years under the stewardship of Ben Olsen, the club decided to go in a different direction with Losada. Losada has spoken publicly about his desire to introduce a high intensity style of play, incorporating rapid transitions and a near relentless press. He wants to adopt a sort of Jürgen Klopp mantra; a style that requires a lot of fitness. Something that this club doesn't have a lot of, right now. D.C. head into a weekend where they play twice, with over a third of their 29 man squad missing through injury. Losada has said results will come, but that he wants to instil his philosophy first and foremost.
It's going to take time for Losada to incorporate this philosophy at D.C., that much is obvious. If you dig deeper than their results, you'll see that there are positive signs. Particularly during defensive transitions, and in terms of ball recovery. At times. Obviously consistency takes time to achieve. Against Columbus, the team were pressing well in key areas. They won tackles all over the field, and intercepted the ball well overall (figure 2). Unfortunately for D.C., Columbus did just as good a job in that regard. And did a much better job in making their opponents pay. Orlando will have to try and take the game to D.C. If we approach the game like we did in Kansas City, with a measured, possession based style, we could cause unnecessary issues for ourselves.
Figure 1 shows the ball recovery positions for D.C., for the whole 90 during their defeat to Columbus.
Figure 2 shows where D.C. were able to intercept the ball during their defeat to Columbus.
D.C. United have significant injury concerns, heading into their 2 game rounds at the weekend. As of the time of recording, Steven Birnbuam, Bill Hamid, Erik Sorga, Yordy Reyna, Chris Adoi-Atsem, Jacob Greene, Nigel Roberta, Russell Canouse and Donovan Pines are all out. Meanwhile, they have doubts around Kevin Paredes, Paul Arriola, Griffin Yow and Joseph Mora.
They are, potentially, missing over a third of their squad due to various injury concerns. As such they were only able to name 4 players to the bench in their loss to Columbus. Wow, I thought we had injury concerns.
Orlando, meanwhile, will continue to be without Alexandre Pato as he continues his recovery. Uri Rosell and Robin Jansson are both doubts. Joao Moutinho is listed as 'questionable' on the official MLS injury report, although he was involved last week. So I'd expect to, at least, see him on the bench for the Lions. David Loera is also battling to be fit, and so remains a doubt.
Possible starting XI
Predicting how this D.C. side is going to line-up, particularly given their condensed schedule and availability issues, is no easy task. Losada is still, it could be argued, trying to work out what his best set-up is. Which is hardly surprising, given the issues He's currently dealing with. Despite that fact, he's utilised 3 different formations and 18 players so far. Losada has been tinkering with his formation a fair amount. And with them playing just a few days before their game with Orlando, it's difficult to predict how they're going to set up for this one. I've guestimated based on their last game. Let's wait to see how wrong I am!
A man that Orlando City fans are all too familiar with. The former 5 shites (sorry, can't help it) man has been in a thorn in our side previously. He will be looking to improve on his numbers from last season, where he notched 3 goals and 2 assists from his 22 games (19 starts). He's played every minute of his 4 games so far this season, and has chalked up 1 assist. D.C. will be looking for the erstwhile US youth international to get back to his form in that dump to the north. During his time in Atlanta, Gressel scored 15 goals and created 35 more in a 3 season spell that encompassed 98 appearances. He's a creative player, with the ability to unlock almost any defence in this league. Hernán Losada will be hoping he reaches his best form, so United can get back to winning ways.
It's been a worrying start for D.C., their impressive opening day win over NYCFC has been over shadowed by 3 straight defeats. The Capitol club have conceded 8 goals in successive defeats to the New England Revolution, San Jose Earthquakes and Columbus Crew (I refuse to call them Columbus SC). DC are now 1-0-3 on the season, and head into Friday night's game against Chicago Fire, down in 11th in the Eastern Conference.
Orlando City meanwhile, sit 4th win a 1-3-0 record, and are one of only 4 teams currently unbeaten in MLS. There's been a certain amount of frustration amongst the Orlando City faithful, at the team's inability to turn draws into wins. The draw against NYCFC left a particularly bitter taste in the mouth, as Orlando surrendered the win, having been a goal to the good and generally looking fairly comfortable.
* NB: this review was published before D.C. United's game against Chicago Fire on Friday 5/14.
*All statistics courtesy of whoscored.com
Line-up graphic courtesy of chosen11.com