Match Preview: 5.24 & 26.2012 vs. LA Blues & Charlotte Eagles
Two games in three days starts with first-ever match-up against LA BluesORLANDO, Fla. – Orlando City Soccer Club continues a stretch of four games in one week on Thursday when they welcome the Los Angeles Blues to the City Beautiful for the first ever meeting between the two clubs. The Lions will follow Thursday’s match with a rematch against their season-opening opponent Charlotte Eagles on Saturday. Both matches will be played at the Citrus Bowl, with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m.
“We’ve got a really difficult game on Thursday,” said Head Coach Adrian Heath. “I think LA, come the end of the season, will be near the top of the table. I want to make sure we get a result on Thursday.”
Part of what makes Thursday’s match so difficult for the Lions is unfamiliarity. Orlando and LA have never played each other. Although match film provides some insight, everything changes when the teams step out onto the pitch. Fortunately for the Lions, that unfamiliarity goes both ways.
The Blues have made some key roster improvements as of late. Earlier this month, Bright Dike was brought in on loan from the Portland Timbers (MLS). In his two appearances for LA, Dike has scored once and registered an assist. Dike has been recalled by the Timbers to play in their Wednesday night friendly against Valencia CF from Spain, but will fly to Orlando Wednesday night to be available for Thursday’s match.
LA also made news this week by signing former MLS forward Maykel Galindo. In five years in MLS, Galindo scored 18 goals over 73 games. He made his first appearance last night in the Blues’ Open Cup match against Ventura County Fusion.
Both LA and Orlando come into the match following Tuesday night’s second round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, albeit with very different outcomes. City easily dispatched amateur side KC Athletics 7-0, with goals coming from five different players, including an own-goal. Max Griffin scored twice in the first half, and was removed at the break to rest up for Thursday’s match.
LA also found themselves the beneficiaries of an own goal against the Ventura County Fusion, but the result would not be the same. The Blues wound up playing down a man late, and going to extra time. Two late goals by the Fusion would see LA crash out of the tournament 3-1. How the Blues respond to the surprise defeat will go a long way in determining the outcome of the match.
Thursday’s match is Military Appreciation Night for Orlando City. At halftime, Congressman Daniel Webster (8th District, Florida) will perform a swearing-in ceremony with new recruits from all five branches of the United States military. Approximately 300 new soldiers will be sworn in. Armored vehicles will also be available for viewing on the concourse prior to the match.
Following Thursday’s match, the Lions will welcome the Charlotte Eagles to the Citrus Bowl. Orlando and Charlotte last met on the season’s opening day. City came through with a 2-0 victory, getting goals at both the start and end of the match.
“Charlotte traditionally gives us problems,” said Heath. “We will be ready for a tough game.”
Last season, the Lions and Eagles battled to a scoreless draw in the Citrus Bowl. Charlotte’s style of play on the road, at least against Orlando, tends to focus on keeping men behind the ball and waiting for opportunities to counter. Orlando has seen strategy one other time this season, and it resulted in a scoreless draw with Richmond.
The City line-up for Saturday is entirely dependent on Thursday’s outcome. With a total of four games in eight days, keeping players fresh will be a challenge. Several starters were rested in last night’s Open Cup win. Expect Heath to utilize all five available substitutions to keep his players available for each match.
Tickets are still available for both matches, and start at just $15. For more information call 855-ORL-CITY or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Player to Watch - Wes Allen:
Wes Allen is a name known to Orlando City supporters, but few others. Last season, Allen did not see the field often, serving as the back-up to Rob Valentino and Kieron Bernard. This year, injuries to Valentino and Kyle Davies have forced Allen into the spotlight. So far, he’s shown he’s up to the task. Allen was particularly strong during the trip to Antigua, and scored the game-winning goal, the first of his professional career, in the second match of the trip. He was named to the USL PRO Team of the Week for his efforts. Keep an eye on Allen. He’ll be proving much-needed depth during this tough stretch of games.
Miguel Gallardo, Sean Kelley, Jerome Mechack, Kieron Bernard, Luke Boden, Wes Allen, Erik Ustruck, Rob Valentino, Kyle Davies, Justin Clark, Ian Fuller, Kevin Molino, John Rooney, Anthony Pulis, James O’Connor, Jamie Watson, Charlie Campbell, Max Griffin, Dennis Chin, Matt Luzunaris