Preview: Santos Laguna (h).
Updated: Aug 13, 2021
When? Thursday August 12, 4 p.m. PT, 7 p.m. ET and 00:00 BST (13/8)
Where? Exploria Stadium, Orlando, FL.
How can I catch the action? The game is being broadcast on ESPN+ for residents of the United States and Canada. The game is not currently scheduled for broadcast in the UK.
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a tad excited for this game. For the first time since 1996, a club I support is making a foray into a continental competition. Not since 1996, when Nottingham Forest succumbed 7-2 to FC Bayern München in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup (now the Europa League), has a team I've thrown my hat behind graced such a competition. I can't bloody wait.
Now, in the interests of full disclosure, prior to the announcement of this tie, my knowledge of our historic opponents wast hazy at best. Even now I wouldn't consider myself an expert; I've had to do some digging. Whilst MLS' exposure in the UK continues to grow, Liga MX is still something of an unknown quantity to us Brits. It doesn't exactly get wall to wall coverage here, aside from the odd mention on Sky Sports News. Most Brits are unfamiliar with Liga MX and its clubs, aside from what they learn with the odd game of FIFA. Personally speaking, FC Tijuana are a favourite of mine. Mainly because they had a Sith Trooper on their kit a few years back. I digress...
Anyway, without further ado, let's get stuck into what promises to be an historic night for Orlando City Soccer Club.
Santos Laguna's style
It's clear that this game is going to be quite some test for our Lions. Santos Laguna have started their season well, with 1 win and 2 draws from their opening 3 games, scoring 5 and conceding 2. This off the back of an excellent 2020-21 season, where the Comarca Lagunera based side finished 8th (Apertura) and 5th (Clausura), in the 18 team league. Not known for their attacking prowess; they ranked 11/18 (Apertura), and 16/18 (Clausura) for goals scored in 2020-21.
They primarily owe their success to a solid defensive base; only 38 goals conceded during the 34 game season. A trend that seems set to continue this season, with their overall XGa rating of 0.92. There is a chink in the armour, at least as far as Orlando City are concerned anyway; their XGa rating away from home is 1.42. A trend that seems to have been a continuation from the previous season, where they had an XGa of 1.57 away from home. Across both competitions in Liga MX they conceded an average of 1.2 goals away from home, conceding over 0.5 (so 1) in 85% of their games. Quite a remarkable statistic really. They closed out their season, winless in their last 6 road games. There were also 3 clean sheets in 20, away from home (across all competitions). Compared to 10 in 22 at Estadio Corona.
Figure 1 shows Santos Laguna's XG stats for the 2020-21 season.
Figure 2 shows Santos Laguna's goals conceded statistics for the 2020-21 season.
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Santos Laguna, like ourselves, are not without their injury concerns right now. Brian Lozano, Omar Campos, Ayrton Preciado are all out, whilst Alessio Da Cruz is listed as questionable. The Mexican clubs' 25 man roster for this game is as follows:
Orlando City announced their roster without the likes of Daryl Dike, Sebas Mendez and Alexandre Pato. The MLS injury report also has Antonio Carlos and Pedro Gallese listed as questionable, but both are included in their 25 man roster for this tie:
Possible starting XI
Santos seem to have favoured a 4-2-3-1 formation, so far this season. I imagine, like us, that they will see this competition as a realistic chance to win silverware. As such, I think they'll pick their strongest XI, consistent to the teams they've been putting out in Liga MX thus far:
With 7 goals in 38 games across all competitions last season, the Uruguayan midfielder is a key component to this team. He's already off the mark this season, scoring in their 1-1 draw with Tigres UANL. He also notched 7 assists during the 2020-21 season, in addition to his average of a goal every 3.25 games. Not a bad record for a midfielder, particularly in a team that struggles for goals. He's also managed to play his way into the Uruguayan national team this season, earning 2 caps and experiencing game time against Leo Messi and Argentina during the Copa America. Missed a penalty during their recent draw with Cruz Azul (pictured).
As previously indicated, Santos Laguna are at the very beginning of their season. They are 3 games in, and have drawn their last 2 following an opening day weekend victory over Necaxa, 3-0.
Orlando City have been in patchy form lately, having only won 10 points from their last 8 games in MLS. Maybe this competition will provide a welcome distraction?
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