Orlando City preview: And so it begins
Saturday marks the third meeting between the clubs, and the Union own an 0-1-1 against their USL Pro foes. The 2011 meeting ended in a 1-0 Orlando City win, thanks in large part to an early red card received by Carlos Valdes. Danny Califf’s goal off a Gabriel Gomez cross (remember them?) was nullified by a late equalizer from Orlando City in a 1-1 draw.
So what to expect this time out? Union manager John Hackworth will have his team ready for a challenge in an MLS-type atmosphere.
“We have the good fortune to have a good relationship with Orlando City, and they are a really good professional organization. I think there’s an obvious reason that the MLS is considering them for a franchise here,” Hackworth said in his weekly conference call Wednesday. “They have great fan support, and the team and the coaching staff do a fantastic job and we’ve obviously been tested both times we’ve played down here. We think that will carry on Saturday, which we’re looking forward to. We want to be challenged, we want to be frustrated.”
The Lions have the personnel to do that. They accumulated 57 points in 24 matches last season (that’s a 17-1-6 record), the highest total in the league and 16 points more than runner-up Rochester. Despite that, the Lions lost in the semifinals of the playoffs. They return USL Pro leading scorer Dennis Chin, who led the league with 11 goals and 24 points. Missing from the gameday roster, however, are Matt Luzunaris (20 points last season) and Kevin Molino (13) from last season’s team.
Also remaining are veteran defender Rob Valentino and goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo. Manager Adrian Heath is a well-known name, a former England youth international and veteran of over 500 matches in England, including stints on Everton’s squads in 1984-85 and 1986-87 that won the Football League First Division (the precursor of the Premier League).
The Orlando City roster includes a few intriguing name that may be familiar to MLS fans. Listed as free agents/trialists are:
- Freddie Braun, who spent the last two seasons with the Portland Timbers, playing just three league games.
- Jamaican international Keammar Daley, who was recently released from a two-year stint with Preston North End in the English Championship and League One (second and third divisions, respectively). He’s been capped 11 times and scored twice for the Reggae Boyz.
- Haitian midfielder Kenold Versailles, who has been capped by his country five times.
- Former D.C. United/Vancouver forward Long Tan.
“It’s a chance to show everyone (at the MLS level) that we can compete,” Heath said in a release on the Lions site. “Our boys have been training hard and we go in the tournament expecting results.”
From Hackworth’s conference call, it looks like he’ll try to get as many guys in Saturday’s game as possible, perhaps using two shifts of players, one in each half. He didn’t give any indications as to whether that would be as a starters-and-subs arrangement or some amalgamation of the two in each unit.
Either way, Hackworth and company are ready for a battle.
“We know they’re going to bring it in front of their hometown crowd,” he said, “and it’ll be a good opportunity to evaluate our players, hopefully have a good result and move on from there.”
Labels: Adrian Heath, Carlos Valdes, Danny Califf, Dennis Chin, Freddie Braun, Gabriel Gomez, Keammar Daley, Kenold Versailles, Kevin Molino, Long Tan, Matt Luzanaris, Miguel Gallardo, Orlando City, Rob Valentino