Match Preview: 4.7.2012 at Charlotte Eagles
Lions look to start the season off on the right foot in CharlotteORLANDO, Fla. – Orlando City Soccer Club kicks off the 2012 USL PRO Regular Season tomorrow in North Carolina with a match against the Charlotte Eagles. Kickoff at Charlotte Christian Stadium is set for 7:00 p.m.
“Away from home, opening game of the season is never easy,” said Orlando City Head Coach Adrian Heath. “We’ve had a good preseason, the players have been in good form. We have to make sure we’re ready to compete. The game last year in Charlotte was difficult, and I don’t think it’s going to be any different.”
Heath and the Lions are fully aware of the potential for of a great preseason building false confidence. Last season, Orlando City dropped the opening game of the season 2-0 in Richmond. The Lions regrouped and went on an 11-match unbeaten streak, but the lesson was learned.
“We’ll have to play well to win the game,” said Heath. “I certainly don’t think that if we play badly tomorrow that we’ll have enough to win. I am confident in our abilities, but we have to play well.”
The Lions and Eagles clashed twice last season, with Orlando taking the season series 1-0-1. City’s victory came in Charlotte, with Rob Valentino netting the only goal. Charlotte then played a hard-fought scoreless draw in early June at the Citrus Bowl.
Orlando City will be without two key players for the match. Captain Miguel Gallardo is suspended due to the red card he received in last year’s Championship Game. Sean Kelley, hero and MVP of the Championship Game, will start in his place. Jhohan Obando, a former Central Florida Kraze goalkeeper, has been signed to a short-term contract to serve as Kelley’s back-up.
“Sean proved in the final he’s more than an adequate replacement,” said Heath. “We have big hopes of Sean down the road, so we’re confident he’ll be able to handle the situation without a problem.
The Lions will also be without their leading goal-scorer from last season, Max Griffin. Griffin has a slight injury to his hamstring and is being held out for precautionary reasons. Dennis Chin will start, with Matt Luzunaris being available off the bench. Luzunaris is recovering from sports-hernia surgery and only returned to game action in the preseason finale. Chin led all Orlando City players with four goals in the preseason.
Player to Watch - John Rooney:
Rooney lead Orlando City in the preseason with five assists. He also added two goals, including a coolly taken penalty kick against Toronto FC in the Disney Pro Soccer Classic. Rooney plays a crucial role in the Orlando City offense, and will be relied upon to create scoring chances for Kevin Molino, Jamie Watson, and Dennis Chin. In his last outing, the preseason finale at University of South Florida, Rooney was credited with two official assists, but was also instrumental in creating a Kevin Molino’s goal to close out the first half.
Expected Line-up (4-2-3-1 formation)
Jerome Mechack Rob Valentino Kyle Davies Luke Boden
James O’Connor Anthony Pulis
Kevin Molino John Rooney Jamie Watson