When? Sunday April 24, 12:30 p.m. PT, 3.30 p.m. ET and 8.30 p.m. BST.
Where? Exploria Stadium, Orlando, FL.
How can I catch the action? The game will be broadcast on ESPN and ESPN Deportes for residents of the United States. The game commentary will also be available locally on 104.1 Real Radio and Accion 97.9 FM. The game is not currently scheduled for UK broadcast.
After securing safe passage through to the next round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Cup on Wednesday evening, Oscar Pareja's team turn their attention back to Major League Soccer. The Red Bulls are in town and will be looking to continue their good recent form against the Lions. The Red Bulls took both encounters in 2021, so it's probably about time Orlando exacted revenge.
The Red Bulls are a good side, and have gotten the season off to a reasonable start under former Barnsley head coach Gerhard Struber. The Austrian has seemingly endeared himself to the Red Bulls organisation with his pragmatic approach to the game. He also demonstrated his commitment to the club when he refused Ralf Rangnick's offer to join him at Manchester United in the winter.
This will be another tough game for the Lions. So, without further ado let's get straight into it.
The Red Bulls' Style
The Red Bulls are going to be a difficult side to break down. They are a well organised outfit who aren't afraid to get stuck in; they lead the league in average tackles with of 13.6 per game. They do an excellent job of protecting their 'keeper with Carlos Miguel only having to face 2.1 shots per game. They are a solid outfit.
They utilise an effective low block as part of their 3-5-2 set up (figure 2). It's a set up that actually allows them to shift to a 5-3-2 during moments of high pressure, with the likes of Lewis Morgan and John Tolkin dropping in to support when needed. Their low block means they often keep the play in front of them. They know they don't have the quickest of back lines, so the low block is their most comfortable defensive set up. The set up is part of the reason their tackling numbers are so high; they clog the space and make it difficult to get around them (figure 3).
In an attacking sense, they also pose a number of dangers, particularly in wide areas with the likes of Morgan. Former Middlesbrough and Sunderland striker Ashley Fletcher provides a huge physical presence in attack. The English striker has won a career average 2.7 aerial duels per game. In their recent 0-0 draw with FC Dallas, he won 3/5 aerial duels, 2 of which were in the opposing box. Without Antonio Carlos in the Orlando City back 4, this could be something they look to do a little more of.
Figure 1 shows the Red Bulls' ranking in terms of successful tackles per game.
Figure 2 shows the heatmap for Red Bulls' back 3 against Dallas, whole 90.
Figure 3 is a game still from their recent draw with Dallas.
The Red Bulls have a number of injury concerns heading into this game; Andres Reyes, Wiki Carmona, Cameron Harper, Serge Ngoma and Caden Clark are all set to miss out.
As for Orlando, on the other hand, Antonio Carlos remains the only absentee at this time.
This section will be updated as new information becomes available.
Possible starting XI
The Red Bulls rotated for their midweek tie in the cup, so I'd expect to see further rotation on Sunday. I can see them lining up as follows in their favoured 3-5-2 formation.
The former Celtic and Inter Fort Lauderdale winger has settled into life reasonably well in Harrison, NJ. The Scottish winger has scored 3 times and assisted once so far in 2022, and has an average rating of 7.54 in fotmob.com. Following on from last year's struggles in Pompano Beach, Morgan looks to be enjoying his soccer again. Morgan has an XG of 1.66 on the season so far and has played 16 key passes, 12 successful crosses and has completed 42% of his dribbles. He poses a considerable threat when cutting in from the right or left flank (all 3 goals have been with his right foot).
The Red Bulls are 3-2-2 on the season so far, but have failed to win their last 2 MLS games. Albeit, they did see off Hartford Athletic in their U.S. Open Cup tie in midweek. The Red Bulls are currently 3rd in the east.
Orlando, meanwhile, have won their last 2 MLS games and currently sit 2nd in the east. They sit on a 4-2-2 record, and also progressed in the cup (at the expense of the Rowdies, as if you didn't know).
Cover image courtesy of Orlando City SC.
B-roll and media availability footage courtesy of Orlando City SC.