It’s impossible to not find similarities between Orlando City and Seattle from the success off the field as expansion sides, coaching changes, RSL connections and much more. Orlando believes they are a playoff team and they probably are on the cusp of that in the East which is why they fired Adrian Heath in the hopes that Jason Kreis can guide them into the playoffs in their second season. Kreis did not change much last week. He did not immediately switch to a 4-4-2 diamond like he played in RSL and NY. Largely played the same squad but inverted the wingers. This week he moved Darwin Ceren for Matias Perez Garcia from San Jose. I think Kreis will only use MPG off the bench this week instead going with Kevin Molino and Brek Shea as wingers with Kaka in the middle of a 4-2-3-1.
Up top Orlando has Cyle Larin, quick and young. Not as strong as Jordan Morris but he’s a got an extra year in MLS on him and four more goals this year including a goal in each of his past three matches. He’ll give our CBs a problem with his speed but without a lot of strength he can be pushed off the ball in 1v1 situations. Evans and Marshall will have to be careful with how they push up his speed and the deft touch of Kaká let’s him get in behind and with his finishing ability Larin can give a major headache to Stefan Frei.
Now that #10 I mentioned above, Kaka. He’s slowed considerably since his youthful days but he still has great vision and passing but he’s probably a non-factor in defending. Kaka can do anything he wants with the ball still. Seattle did a great job limiting impacts by Pirlo, Lampard (bar that handball) and Gerrard this year by preventing them having possession in effective areas but in Kaka’s case he can be effective anywhere. Alonso and Roldan will have to work together to prevent players from getting the ball to Kaka and then Alonso and one of the CBs need to prevent him from going forward with it. If they do that, they’ll win. Should it really be that simple? No. Will it be? Yes.
Kaka is the lynch-pin of that midfield and with Heath there was plenty of wing play but under Kreis the club inverted the wings. This naturally draws the wingers into the middle to plug it up, much like a diamond. If you have multiple defenders on Kaka, it’ll force Orlando to go wide where they had success under Heath but will not under Kreis. As Molino, Shea, Garcia, Berry, etc. cut inside, they’ll fall trap to the same defenders blocking Kaka. If they can find him in the middle, they’ll get a chance and if they can’t it’ll be a turnover. If they choose to go down the flanks, expect Larin to lose the aerial duel, Frei to clear crosses and crosses either delivered with their weak foot or via cutbacks which will give players time to get set and prevent a successful cross.
Defensively Orlando has not held a shutout for a month now. The only match they even allowed less than two goals was last week in their win against New England. The Lions were defensively stronger in their first match with Kreis coaching but I wouldn’t say they have fixed their problems. Mental lapses are likely to occur and without Ceren in the midfield, the back line will be having to adjust to a different CDM pairing. For most defenses that is not a problem but for one with a lot of issues it could be a glaring one.
Expect Nicolas Lodeiro to wreck havoc on a very susceptible back line. If Seattle’s offense can be as cohesive as they were against LA or better, they should find goals. The question will purely be, can they stop Kaka and co. If so, expect a win in Orlando, if not it could be a long flight home for the Rave Green. Unlike Dave, I predict a win in Florida, 3-1. I think Lodeiro takes over and with a few more practices under his belt, he’ll find the back of net or at least get someone else to.
Orlando- Bendik, Alston, Mateos, Hines, Boden, Carrasco, Nocerino, Shea, Kaka, Molino, Larin
Sounders- Frei, Mears, Evans, Marshall, Jones, Alonso, Roldan, Lodeiro, Valdez, Dempsey, Morris.