Fresh off their season-opening victory this past weekend, the focus for Orlando City now shifts to an intriguing Matchday 2 test against FC Cincinnati on Saturday night at Exploria Stadium (7:30pm ET, Apple TV+).
Facundo Torres‘ penalty kick goal in the second half was the one and only time the Lions created anything significant in the goal-scoring department against the New York Red Bulls, using their defense to do the heavy lifting in the 1-0 victory.
Despite a bevy of new attacking talents in the group, Orlando City’s 2022 struggles of failing to put many quality chances on target carried over into the first game of 2023. The Lions didn’t attempt a single shot in the first half and eventually finished with an xG of 1.07 and one shot on target (both the shot on target and nearly all of the xG came from the penalty kick).
For a team coached by Oscar Pareja, grinding out a 1-0 result on the back of low offense and solid defense is just par for the course and hardly anything to have the staff sweating. In time, the Lions are assuming the pieces can fit together and produce more fan-satisfying results.
With Liga MX side Tigres waiting for them in the CONCACAF Champions League just three days later, Pareja will already be looking at squad rotation to find the best balance of keeping legs ready for Tuesday and trying to secure all three points in this early season league match.
On the other side of the ball, following three consecutive Wooden Spoon-winning (last place) seasons to kick off their existence in MLS, Cincy finally pointed itself in the right direction with the first playoff appearance in club history last season and entered the year as a Supporters’ Shield contender and top three teams in the Eastern Conference among league observers.
—- Gavin Ewbank
- Orlando City’s opening-day victory extended the club’s streak of nine consecutive years without being beaten to start the season. The record can be extended back even further, dating back to the Lions’ very first season as a USL Pro club in 2011.
- Pedro Gallese‘s Matchday 1 shutout extended a personal streak for himself as well, as he has yet to concede a goal in four opening-day starts for Orlando. Gallese set a club record in 2022 with nine clean sheets, breaking the record he had tied the previous season with seven in 2021. Eight more to go to tie his new record.
- Cincinnati won both meetings with Orlando last season, claiming a 2-1 victory at Exploria Stadium in March and a 1-0 shutout at TQL Stadium in June. Prior to these defeats, Orlando was undefeated all-time against Cincy in MLS (three wins, two draws).
- Facundo Torres’ first goal of the season on Saturday extends an impressive run for the 22-year-old. Dating back to last season, he has seven goals and five assists in his last 11 appearances.
- Cincinnati was one of the top road teams in MLS last season, finishing 2022 by going unbeaten in its final six road matches (four wins, two draws), and posted a record of 5-2-7 overall in their last 14 games away from home.
Report from training
Almost every Lion was out at training this week, with only Antonio Carlos and Favian Loyola not out with the rest of the team. Those two players are the only ones on this week’s injury report for Orlando. With two games coming up, the squad may look for some rotation from Saturday to Tuesday in Mexico, which could introduce some debuts against Cincinnati.
Gaston Gonzalez, who missed last week’s game dealing with visa paperwork, has been training normally with the squad.
“We see him interacting with the players within the field in a very natural manner,” Pareja said of Gonzalez, “I see his movements, like the players that we scouted a year ago. I have seen from him as well a lot of energy and a lot of wish to come and be part of the game. Now with this visa situation, it just got in the way but it’s over already, he’s here. We had him obviously in our plans. We’ll see how we can use him but Gaston is ready to go.”
—- Austin David
FC Cinncinati under manager Pat Noonan will most likely line up in a 5-3-2 formation. This formation will adjust in attack, looking at times like 3-4-3 and 3-5-2.
At the core of the defense is U.S. international Matt Miazga, who brings experience and the physicality of one of the top defenders in Major League Soccer. In attack, Designated Player Lucho Acosta brings speed into the central midfield. Acosta has MLS MVP pedigree with his ability to run at defenses with the ball and create opportunities with his technical skills. If he is running downhill with the ball it usually means a long night for opposing defenses.
Forward Brandon Vazquez is motivated as ever in 2023 after some believed that he should have made the United States World Cup roster this past winter. Vazquez is physically strong in the air and will be a danger on any set piece for Cincinnati.
Finally, there’s Alvaro Barreal, an outside wingback who will fly forward in attack. He delivers great service and will be giving Orlando’s right-back trouble all night. Despite his speed in coming forward in attack, he lacks in getting back in defense. Many times the space he is supposed to be occupying on defense will be available for other teams to take advantage of.
—- Brent Petkus
Austin David: Orlando 1, Cincinnati 1
Gavin Ewbank: Orlando 1, Cincinnati 1
Brent Petkus: Orlando 2, Cincinatti 1
Kyle Foley: Orlando 1, Cincinnati 0
Brad Newton: Orlando 1, Cincinnati 1
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