Nashville SC: some Happy Boys in Gold last meeting between these two. Courtesy NAshville SC/MLS
Let’s get to know Orlando City! I caught up with the Orlando Sentinel‘s Julia Poe for our most recent podcast. Some of the most newsworthy bits are here in very abridged form, so check out the pod to get the whole shebang. And check out Julia’s work on Twitter or in the Sentinel.
Tim Sullivan: How has Óscar Pareja been able to succeed at a place that had been doomed to failure for its first several years?
Julia Poe: “I think it’s been a combination of things: first, having the infrastructrure of [Director of Scouting] Ricardo Moreira and [VP of Soccer Operations] Luiz Muzzi getting in the correct personnel has been really necessary. This team has gone from having a lot of swings-and-misses on players to only having maybe one or two a season.
“And with Oscar, it’s a combination of, he’s really, really good at creating confidence in players, which is so important. They feel like the have the freedom to work within what is actually a very disciplined system. He’s very, very hard, specifically on his midfielders, and I think because of that, Orlando City has been able to become one of those teams that maybe isn’t always flashy – Nani’s creating a lot of flash, but they have a really regimented idea of how they want to defend and how they want to lock things down. When you’ve got guys like Pedro Gallese and Antonio Carlos, it makes it that much easier to keep guys out of goal.”
TS: What has been the primary crack in the armor, particularly as it relates to the team’s most recent game, a Leagues Cup loss to Santos Laguna?
JP: “There have been times throughout the season that we have seen Orlando City really just have a flare-up in finishing problems. I haven’t been too concerned by that with Orlando City this year: this is a team that’s only lost four games, but as we get deeper in the stretch, and as injuries become more of an issue, especially at the striker position, those scoreless games are becoming a little bit more of a red flag for the team at this point.”
TS: When is Daryl Dike expected to return? He’s not on the injury report, could it be as soon as this weekend?
JP: “Daryl right now, I have seen him at training yet. He will not be playing against Nashville. He’s currently carrying that shoulder injury that National Team fans might have seen him pick up in the Gold Cup, and he’s also got some tendinitis. The man’s been running hard for a year now, so I think this rest is coming at a good time – but fans are definitely desperate to see him back.”
TS: Another injury note, who’se been keeping goal with Pedro Gallese injured?
JP: “It’s been interesting: Mason Stadjuhar has been the main player who has been getting the only minutes since then. He’s a homegrown player that was signed six years ago, and just got his first games in-goal for the first team with Pedro’s injury. He’s had some tough games to face. Had some bangers scored against him right off the bat, one of those courtesy of [Atlanta’s] Josef Martinez. So it’s always tough to be thrown in like that.”
TS: Aside from the usual – it’s tough for everyone – what has been Orlando’s biggest struggle with road games?
JP: “At the start of the season, they were actually extremely good on the road, and last year, they were very, very good on the road. This year, something that I’ve noticed strange about the timing of some of their road games is that it’s come at an interval when they decided to go into a rotation lineup, and to travel some of their backup players and maybe leave Nani or Mauricia [Pereyra] or somebody like that at home. So they had some of those road-game thumpings – against New York, or against Chicago – that were pretty detrimental in terms of emotional losses. I think that timing has been a little bit odd, but we have noticed that they’re not always traveling their strongest lineup to the longer games./
“They started the season with a strong road game against Sporting Kansas City – that was the catalyst for their streak to start the year – but it has fallen off a little bit recently. I think they’ve also just been struggling with rotation. When you’re looking at trying to keep guys healthy, it’s, ‘look, are we going to try to take them on a plane and do that if we’re still trying to recover them.'”
Many thanks to Julia for her time. ‘Check it out!’ in the Orlando Sentinel.