Resilient and deep are two words to describe DC United as the Black and Red reaches the halfway point of the season. Even after a stretch of five games in fourteen days, United is still in first place in the Eastern Conference ahead of Sunday’s match in Orlando.
It has not always been pretty for United and has been far from smooth, but United can look back at the first 16 games of the season with pride. The top of the table story has been crafted even though United has already used 13 different starting lineups and driving force Fabian Espindola has only appeared in four games.
Back from recent ailments at training on Friday were Bill Hamid, Chris Pontius, and Chris Korb. Taylor Kemp who has been bothered by a groin injury is now listed as probable and could return to start at left back. In short United is healthier than the team has been in recent weeks and should be rested.
Orlando is now having results to match the team’s incredible support in central Florida where at home the Lions, as the team is known, are averaging over 36,000 fans per game. Last week Orlando stunned Chicago on the road with a 3-2 win to extend its unbeaten run to four games and move into fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
- Be creative and assertive. Last Saturday against Toronto it was great that United scored first, but seemed to run out of ideas after that in a 2-1 loss. The team looked tired and the heavy schedule seemed to weigh on United. Now with healthy options, including possibly Taylor Kemp at let back, United needs to be aggressive, but under control. Too often last week United struggled with possession and costly turnovers ignited Toronto attacks. The last time in Orlando United was out played and only saved by Luis Silva’s free kick in the 90th minute and the goalkeeping of Bill Hamid. At RFK when the two teams met, United had to rally for a 2-1 win.
- Limiting Kaka. After early questions about Kaka’s ability to fit into MLS, the Brazilian great has now scored three goals in the last four games to increase his goal scoring total to six on the season. Beyond the goals Kaka has the ability to dictate the flow and pace of the game. United needs to disrupt Kaka and avoid giving up set pieces. Only one of Kaka’s goals has been from the run of play. There will be extra pressure on Kaka because starting forward Cyle Larin will miss the match with the Canadian National Team. Larin had scored four goals over the last six matches. Also midfielder Darwin Ceren will be absent because he was with El Salvador’s National Team.
Bottom line: Orlando has improved, but minus Larin and Ceren, the Lions are not at full strength. United has an opportunity on the road to flex its muscles as the conference leader.
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