• Dan Berridge

Preview: D.C. United (h).

When? Saturday October 2, 4:30 p.m. PT, 7:30 p.m. ET and 00:30 BST (3/10).

Where? Exploria Stadium, Orlando, FL.

How can I catch the action? The game will be broadcast on MLS Live on ESPN+ and DAZN for residents of the United States. Residents of central Florida can catch the game on Fox 35 Plus and LionNationTV, as well as radio on FM 96.9 The Game, Accion 97.9 FM and 810 AM. The game is not currently scheduled for broadcast in the UK.


I don't believe it's too farfetched to say this match could make or break Orlando City's season. I'd stop some way short of saying defeat would annihilate Orlando City's chances of a play-off place, but it would be a hammer blow to their chances of securing a home berth. A win, contrarily, would go someway towards strengthening the Lion's position. Hernán Losada's side arrive in central Florida occupying 3rd place in the east, a point ahead of Orlando in 7th. The play-off places are becoming evermore congested, which should make for an enthralling end to the season.

This will be a difficult game, make no mistake about it. D.C. United have been in fine form of late, as a result they've firmly established themselves in the race for a home play-off berth. With 4 wins from their last 6 games, D.C. are firmly in the mix. Orlando have only won once in that time. That's not me being a pessimist, I'm just trying to illuminate to you, the enormity of this match. An Orlando City win could elevate the Lions as high as 3rd in the league. The entire season could ride on this game. So, no pressure lads.


D.C. United's style


This D.C. United side is an entirely different proposition to the team we faced earlier in the season, even if they do not travel well. First of all, this is a team that struggles on the road, as I just referenced; United have lost 8 of their 14 away games in 2021. This team concedes a goal every 45 minutes away from Audi Field. They've conceded at least 1 goal in 79% of their away games, and at least 2 in 64%. Startlingly, they've conceded at least 3 in 36% of their away fixtures. Those are alarmingly high numbers. Conversely, they've only scored more than 2 in 43% of their games. Their away form is their Achilles heel.


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At Audi Field, they're a different kettle of fish. Whilst that might not seem relevant, given that the game is in Orlando, their home form illuminates their on-field improvement under Hernán Losada. At least to a degree. They score over 2 goals 38% of the time at home. And that's due, at least in part, to the form of Ola Kamara. Kamara currently has 17 goals and 4 assists, in a team that plays 9.7 key passes and completes 8 dribbles per game. They have creative players like Paul Arriola (1.1 key passes per game) and Adrian Perez (1). They don't cross the ball often (only Julian Gressel completes over 1 cross per game). This is a team that likes to play through the middle, which might work out well for Orlando. The key is going to be keeping Kamara quiet.

Figure 1 shows D.C. United's goals conceded record on the season so far.

Figure 2 shows D.C. United's key pass statistics on the season so far.


Team news


D.C. United have a few injury concerns heading into this game; Brendan Hines-Ike, Adrian Perez and Ramon Abila are all out. According to the MLS injury report there are doubts over Chris Adoi-Atsem and Drew Skundrich.


Orlando City, on the other hand, are probably in their best shape for quite some time, although Alexandre Pato, Chris Mueller, Joey DeZart and Uri Rosell are all likely to miss out through injury. Rodrigo Schlegel is suspended for 1 game, yellow card accumulation.

Possible starting XI


I believe we'll see the same line-up that's guided them through their recent run of victories. At the very least it'll be a similar iteration. This is a team that doesn't rotate too much. As such I think they'll line-up something like this:

Top player


Julian Gressel

Gressel has established himself as one of the biggest creative forces on this team. In addition to his 1 goal and 7 assists Gressel has completed 31 successful crosses and 72 key passes. He hasn't hit the heights he has done in previous seasons, at least in terms of goal scoring, although he's never been prolific; his highest tally was the 6 he plundered for Atlanta in 2019. His strength is definitely on the creative side; he has 49 assists in his 5 MLS career seasons to date. Definitely one that Orlando will need to keep tabs on.

Form


D.C. United have been in great form of late, having won 4 of their last 6 games. They currently sit 3rd in the east with a 12-4-11 record.


Orlando City, on the other hand have won 1 of their last 6, though they did arrest a run of 4 successive defeats with their 2-2 draw against Nashville last time out. Orlando are currently 10-9-8 on the season and are sat 7th in the east.

*All statistics courtesy of MLSsoccer.com and whoscored.com.

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