When? Saturday July 3, 4:30 p.m. PT, 7:30 p.m. ET and 12:30 a.m. BST (4/7).
Where? Exploria Stadium, Orlando, FL.
How can I catch the action? The game is being broadcast on Fox 35 Plus and LionNation TV for residents of the Greater Orlando area. The game is also available via radio on 96.9 FM The Game, Accion 97.9 FM and 810 AM. For us UK folk the game is being broadcast on FreeSports (Freeview channel 64 and via the FreeSports app).
Following their mightily impressive 9 point week, Orlando City return to Exploria Stadium hoping to make it 4 wins from 4 in MLS. Against the only team that's managed to defeat them so far this season. The Red Bulls will provide another stern examination of Orlando's MLS Cup and Supporters Shield credentials. Orlando may also have the opportunity to propel themselves into 1st place, should New England Revolution slip-up in Nashville. This will be no easy game, though. As previously mentioned, the Red Bulls are the only team to have beaten Orlando City so far this season, and are currently ticking along nicely, having won 2 of their last 4.
So, without further ado let's get stuck in to what promises to be an intriguing encounter.
The Red Bull's style
I spoke, in my last preview, about how this Red Bulls team were in something of a transitional stage. And to a certain extent, that's still very much the case. There are tentative signs, however, that things are starting to come together for Gerhardt Struber's side. There's a greater organisation and defensive resolve about this team. And you'll see what I mean, from the following numbers and the statistics in figure 1. The Red Bulls have a steely determination about them. This is something we saw in our game at Red Bull Arena. That afternoon, the Red Bulls out dueled Orlando on the deck (18/13) and in the air (22/15). They also out tackled Orlando (27/18). They're not the sort of team that are going to be bullied. This is the sort of game, where the Lions are going to have to match their opponents physically, before they get the ball down and play.
Figure 1 shows how the Red Bulls defensive stats compared with Atlanta (🟠).
Against Atlanta, they weren't quite some dominate as they were against ourselves; Atlanta battled well. That being said the Red Bulls were still able to match their opponents in terms of the physical battle. That battle is definitely going to be key. Despite this, there is a heck of a lot more to this team, in terms of their offensive capabilities. Even despite their lengthy absentee list (see team news). They are quite a direct team (figures 2 and 3), though to label them a long ball team would be ignorant at best. You also get the feeling that they have gotten a little more direct over recent weeks, mainly because they are sans the likes of Caden Clark and Daniel Royer (see team news).
There's also method to their direct play, as they use a number 10 (Frankie Amaya/Wikelman Carmona). The likes of Tom Barlow are able to hold onto the ball and bring the number 10 into play, as they dart around the offensive third (figure 4). Their wide players are then able to push up, into forward areas and attack the opposing penalty area. We know they like to get balls into the box, and this is precisely what they'll do.
Figure 2 shows the Red Bull's direct pass positioning matrix from their game in Atlanta, whole 90.
Figure 3 shows many of the Red Bull's passes were direct (🔵) in Georgia.
Figure 4 shows the Wikelman Carmona's heatmap from the game at MB Stadium, look how close he's gets to his forwards and wide players.
The Red Bulls are currently battling with a lengthy absentee list with key players such as Aaron Long and Daniel Royer set to miss this clash. Caden Clark is also a big miss, as he battles to recover from his appendectomy. Andrew Gutman and Youbba Diarra are still missing, through injury. Cristian Casseres, meanwhile, is away on international duty.
Orlando City, on the other hand, have received something of a boost this week. Rodrigo Schlegel has returned from compassionate leave, and is training with the team. Alexandre Pato is also back in full training, but isn't doing too much of the heavy contact stuff as yet. João Moutinho has had an MRI scan, and the club are mute on any concrete details around that. Ruan is also expected to miss out. Pedro Gallese and Sebas Mendez continue to be absent, due to their involvement in the Copa America.
Possible starting XI
With the injury concerns that the Red Bulls are harbouring currently, it's difficult to envision anything other than a fairly settled line-up this week, with 1 or 2 changes. Tops. As they did against the Plastics in that NFL arena (you know who I mean), they'll want to keep things tight. As such, I'm predicting a 3 back system, utilised as a 3-4-1-2 with the following personnel:
This was a difficult pick to make; the Red Bulls are decimated by so many key injuries right now, Caden Clark and Daniel Royer chief among them. I've selected Davis as a player to watch out for as I believe the midfield battle is going to be crucial. Davis is an experienced campaigner, who is going to have the unenviable task of trying to shackle Andres Perea and Junior Urso. The New Jersey native has been with the club since 2014, and has amassed 148 appearances for the Harrison based club. So far this season, Davis has clocked up 10 appearances, totalling 900 minutes. Whilst not know for his goal scoring capabilities (Davis has only 4 career MLS goals to his name), he's combative and a tidy passer of the ball. He boasts a very respectable 76.7% pass completion rate, so far this season. He will recycle the ball well, so Orlando will need to disrupt his rhythm to prevent the visitors from having too much of the ball. Even when the Red Bulls go direct, the midfield is crucial to winning those loose balls.
The Red Bulls have had something of an uptick in form just lately. Their victory over us, just before the international break, was followed up by a 2-0 win over play-off hopefuls Nashville. A narrow defeat to the Revolution followed, before last week's encouraging draw in Atlanta. The Red Bulls currently sit 7th in the East,and are just above the play-off line with a 4-1-5 record.
Orlando City, meanwhile, are one of the form clubs in the entire league right now. Our defeat at Red Bull Arena seems to have sparked Orlando back into form. With 3 wins from 3 last week, Orlando are in fine fettle; having scored 10 goals along the way. Orlando's 6-3-1 record currently has them sitting pretty in second place, 2 points and a game further back from New England.
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