Taming the Lion: Orlando SC vs Philadelphia Union preview

The Philadelphia Union are coming off the back of three consecutive MLS losses as they head to the Citrus Bowl to face an Orlando team who not only held the high flying Toronto FC but crushed Columbus the week before. Having said that, the Union have amassed two more points than the Lions over their last five games and conceded four less. As the Union aim to make a late surge for the playoffs, this game carries a lot of tension for fans.

The odds are simply not in the travelling sides favour. With only one in in ten away games this season, it’s obvious the team prefer playing at PPL Park. Jim Curtin has also said that the Open Cup is the teams main priority so we may well see some surprising names come the naming of the starting eleven. But when you face Orlando, you get one of two things. A huge win or a huge loss.

Orlando’s midfield situation is very similar to that of the Union. It was predicted to be great yet had flashes of brilliance and an abundance of disappointing performances. Like the Union, they suffered the same formation issues. It either works beautifully or it backfires horrifically. But after the mid-season slump which saw the midfield crumble as the likes of Kaka and Larin do everything to help damage limitation, the likes of Ceren and Huguita have found their strengths in contributing to all aspects of play. Ceren has racked up a couple of goals as Orlando have a vast array of players who have found the back of the net..for the Union, it’s a case of being unpredictable and conservative.

How to stop one of the all time greats:

How do you silence one of the greatest players to step onto a Football Pitch over the last 20 years? The simple answer is, you can’t. You can only prevent the damage he will inflict. It’s not that he’s lethal in front of the net or that his passing rate is so successful, because whilst impressive in those areas, they aren’t his biggest threat. It’s the style of play he was born with. The back heels, the spins, the step overs, the ability to seemingly make defenders look like they weren’t even watching the same game. You can’t prevent something so beautiful. But what you can do is force play around him as opposed to directly to him. For the midfielders, they have to show the ball onto his weaker foot and ensure that they proceed to almost distantly box around him. By staying back and running with him as opposed to going in for a hard challenge, it limits the amount of holes he can run through whilst making the footballing legend get the cogs turning to find his man as opposed to sending a simple through ball.


When in possession, it has to consist of short passes. Even if the majority are in their own half, draw the forwards out before trying to find the wingers. Orlando like to play an up-tempo game. Always moving, quick fire passing and elusive runs. So when the Union get the ball they HAVE to slow it down. Move around gracefully, there’s an old saying here in the UK for this and it’s called K.I.S.S. Keep it simple, stupid. No need to try and be overzealous in their attacks or to constantly seek those long searching balls..just play it short, play it safe and work the ball into the box.

The back four:

For the defenders it’s a case of man retaining shape to ensure that they don’t get drawn out by the seductive style of football..because if they do, there’s a certain Larin who’s just waiting to poach another goal or two. The perfect team to compare this situation to is Toronto. Giovinco carries much of the same threat as Larin and stopping him will be just as difficult. It’s imperative that the tackling is light (no more penalty calls please) and that the Union do NOT ball watch. For fans it’s almost tiresome to watch as the back four constantly get caught off guard as they watch the ball instead of the man who’s now 5 yards a head, jumping onto the same through ball. The Union have the talent and they have the potential to shut down Orlando. It’s been done before, it’s just a case of knowing your role and playing as a team as opposed to individuals.


No, we haven’t gone for a “create the most controversial lineup possible” type formation, but there are a few shocks. With Blake now being 100% and the Open Cup coming up, it would make sense to keep McCarthy rested and finally give the international star a shot. Sylvestre has been good but not great, why not throw a fresh face in net to catch the strikers off guard, it’s hard to find tape for the MLS on keepers who barely play..

The next surprise is new signing Crevalle. With the Union saying the former Toronto defender will be making an impact straight away, it’s fair to say that not only is this a method of replacing Williams but also resting Gaddis for the Cup. He’s there for depth and whilst reckless, has plenty of league experience to perfectly fill the void since Gaddis has been overworked after the Williams departure. It will be a perfect platform for the Union to experiment with some new alignments at the back and again, another way to throw off the opposition by adding an unknown into the equation.

Screen Shot 2015-08-07 at 22.06.51Marquez returns defensively to partner with White which will see Edu leap back into his DM role. Starting Carroll alongside Maidana would add a more conservative style of play as you have two defensive midfielders with one advanced playmaker. Carroll hasn’t been bad at all and believe us, the Union will need all the defensive help they can get to stop a duo (Larin and Kaka) who have put up 20 goals between them.

This is the fun part. After his short 26 minute debut, Barnetta should start on the wing, there is no doubt about it. The former Schalke player should make his starting debut in his natural position as we learned that’s where his talents lie. Sure he ran back and helped but he seemed like a lost puppy out there. He’s a winger, and a very decent winger. Another unknown for Orlando to contest with, Barnetta has the creativity and elusiveness to become an impact player in this game. By partnering him with Eric Ayuk, it creates the wide midfield the fans thought the team would have in week one. It’s rapid, it’s creative and it’s a constant threat. Ayuk has been extremely impressive all season and by starting him, it rests Le Toux for the Open Cup. Seb scored his 50th league goal last time out and is the all time leading scorer in the Open Cup, the team won’t want to risk losing such an established leader just days before the game.


This match is heavily going to come down to the Union’s ability to retain shape. If they play as a team then they should comfortably hold Orlando to a goal or less and come away with at least a point, a crucial point at that. If they begin to drift and play as individuals, they don’t have the prowess to stop the likes of Kaka and Larin. But I think the travelling side have enough variables to throw off the Lions and steal all three points. Barnetta could become a key factor on the left and may well strike up a new bromance with Sapong..SapNetta is real.

Orlando SC- 1-2 Philadelphia Union