With the Portland Timbers looking to put a winless March in the rear-view mirror with consecutive wins to start April, we got in touch with Michael Citro of our Orlando sister site, The Mane Land, to give us a look at Orlando City ahead of Sunday’s fixture between the Lions and the Timbers.
SF: Kaka as a string-puller and Brek Shea as an overlapping threat are well advertised, but who are the other players in the Lions' attack that will be key to Orlando City generating chances on Sunday?
MC: Canadian international Cyle Larin is the likely starter at striker in Adrian Heath's 4-2-3-1 formation. Larin, the first selection in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, came on last Friday after Pedro Ribeiro tore his hamstring and really opened up the midfield with smart, incisive runs. He had a team-high four shots but unfortunately the 19-year-old either missed the target or hit Bill Hamid square in the chest with them. He'll be keen to get on the score sheet in his first career MLS start.
Attacking midfielders Carlos Rivas and Kevin Molino flank Kaká on the left and right, respectively. They'll be active in trying to work with the Brazilian to maintain possession and bring others into the attack, taking shots when they can. On the right side, that means Molino will work with Rafael Ramos, a Portugal U-20 international who serves the same role on right as Shea on the left. Ramos has been one of Orlando's brightest spots this season.
SF: The big piece of business between the Timbers and Orlando City in the offseason was a deal that sent Donovan Ricketts to the Lions essentially in exchange for an agreement to take him early in the expansion draft so the Timbers could protect Jorge Villafana. How would you rate Ricketts's performance for OCSC to date?
MC: Ricketts has been solid, but unspectacular. That's not to say he hasn't made some big saves, because he has, including two vital ones last week and one in Montreal two weeks ago. However, he was also a bit soft in not being able to keep out a poorly hit Ignacio Piatti penalty at Montreal and got his hand on Luis Silva's free kick in stoppage time last week. Both went in, spilling valuable points in the playoff race. I'd say Ricketts has been about everything you want in a backup. Unfortunately, he's been the starter as we await for Tally Hall to recover from an ACL injury. Hall is getting close to returning and it is expected that Ricketts will go to the bench.
SF: The season started with a stoppage-time equalizer against NYCFC, but since the Lions have been bitten by two late set-piece concessions. Is the ability to finish off games a concern at this point, or is it too early to read much into it?
MC: The ability to finish on offense is the bigger concern. Neither Vancouver nor D.C. United should have taken a point out of Orlando, let alone three. The Lions controlled play, generated more chances and were the more dangerous side in both games, but could not find the net. It seems they may be pressing at home. They scored three in two road games and only one in three home games.
That said, it's never optimal to give up late set piece goals. Octavio Rivero's was a great individual effort and not something Ricketts could do anything about, but no one was at the back post to knock it off the line, so that was a tactical error. The Silva goal was more maddening because it was a simple lack of effort. Shea was the only member of the four-man wall to jump, and the ball sailed just over Larin's head and into the net. If Larin jumps, the ball doesn't get to goal. Our mantra is that it's a young team and things will improve. That mantra gets tougher to remember with each missed opportunity, but we still have to be cognizant that this season will be largely made up of learning experiences. It's a long season and 12 teams make the playoffs, so we're not panicking just yet.