The Maneland joins us for the very first time as FC Dallas jets off to face Orlando City Soccer Club this weekend. We spoke to Michael, and he graciously answered our questions about the purple-clad new kids on the block.
Big D Soccer 1. Kaka has played the most minutes of any player in Orlando's locker room, starting all 18 matches thus far. What is your opinion on the red card given to him this past weekend? And if he cannot play against FC Dallas, how will Adrian Heath fill the gap he leaves on the field?
Michael Maneland: Well, the red card was pretty harsh in my eyes, and probably in most Orlando City fans' eyes as well. Clearly Kaká fouled Javier Morales by knocking him down from behind, but he did not throw an elbow or anything. A lot has been made about a so-called "stomp" but the reverse camera angle clearly shows Kaká's foot coming down on top of the ball and sort of squirting off to the side. He came down toe-first, rather than heel, and if he got some of Morales' leg (which it appears he did from the front, but is unclear from the reverse angle), the RSL player did not react in the slightest.
There is quite a bit of anger directed at referee Sorin Stoica, who initially pulled out his yellow card and then showed Kaká the red - and then later told the pool reporter that his assistant referee did not influence his decision. It was Stoica's fifth red card issued in seven matches officiated this season and brings his career total to 17 in just 28 matches. MLS and PRO should do something about this guy because he's ruining games and potentially costing teams points.
I can't blame the Lions for not appealing, with the nearly impossible methodology involved in overturning a red card ban in MLS. But it's terribly frustrating to lose your captain when so many other key players are either injured or away on international duty.
BDS2. Kaka and Cyle Larin have scored 15 of Orlando's 20 goals this season. With Kaka suspended and Cyle Larin with his national team for the Gold Cup, who will take on the offensive burden, and do you think he/they can overcome a wildly inconsistent Dallas defense?
MM: It's going to be tough to find some offense with the team's top two scorers out. I'm sure they will look to guys like Pedro Ribeiro and Carlos Rivas to provide some offense. Ribeiro has scored two goals himself and forced opponents (Tyler Deric and Adailton) into two own-goals this year and is quite a gifted player. He excels in build-up play, as he lacks the pace to act as a lone striker in MLS, though.
Rivas has yet to score in MLS play, although he's always a threat. His crossing is getting better and better as the Colombian settles in, and he crushed a golazo against Columbus Crew SC in U.S. Open Cup play. He also had a hat trick from the penalty spot in USOC action at Charleston in Round 4. He looks more comfortable every match.
Aside from that, it's going to have to be a committee approach and perhaps something will have to come off of a set piece.
BDS3. What's the latest news on Orlando's soccer stadium? How is the club's first season in MLS influencing that process? I believe I saw something that they may increase seating capacity due to the attendance numbers OCSC is putting up.
MM: A few weeks ago, Orlando City's ownership decided to forego waiting for the public funding mechanism it had previously won and will now finance the stadium privately. The legislature had agreed on funds that would be sort of a loan but legislative session ended without the rubber stamp vote needed to release the money. This became a frustrating issue for ownership, which decided, "eh, we'll just do it ourselves."
The stadium likely won't open until the middle of next summer but it was originally going to be 19,500-seat stadium and now it will seat 25,000-28,000 and will likely have many more amenities than previously expected.
Match prediction and expected line-up.
MM: This is tough game to gauge, as from what I've seen, FC Dallas has a bit of a Jeckyll-and-Hyde tendency. When Dallas is good, it's very good and at other times...not so much. Without Kaká, the team loses a bit of leadership and his calming influence. This one could be a dicey one for the Lions. I'll say it's a 1-1 draw. Goals will be hard for Orlando City to come by and Fabian Castillo can create problems for any back line.
My predicted lineup (4-2-3-1):
Tally Hall; Luke Boden, Sean St. Ledger, Seb Hines, Rafael Ramos; Cristian Higuita, Amobi Okugo; Carlos Rivas, Lewis Neal, Eric Avila; Pedro Ribeiro.
Next up, we drop the opposite side of the conversation, Maneland's questions and my answers. Stick around.
MM1: Who are three players (expected to play) from FC Dallas that Orlando City fans should know about?
BDS: Victor Ulloa has been the anchor for the midfield. The young homegrown played 44 straight matches back into last season. He was given a rest recently at that Kansas City USOC fiasco. He was back on the field for the start of the home match against the Revs last week, however. Paired with either Kellyn Acosta or Michel, Vic does the heavy lifting winning duels and keeping the ball moving through the midfield.
Matt Hedges is the team captain at centerback and earned his first USMNT cap in February this year. Dallas picked him in the first round of the 2012 SuperDraft. He was thrown into the fire pretty quickly when Ugo Ihemelu went down with a career-ending concussion. Matt quickly learned on the job, paired with George John in his prime for Dallas. Now, Matt has grown into his role, often taking vocal responsibility on the field to organize the defense.
I'm cheating a little bit, naming two players for my last mention, but you probably already know a bit about Fabian Castillo and Mauro Diaz. The two South Americans have been destroying opposing teams when they are firing on all cylinders. Fabian can dribble at anyone and has been leading the league in that statistic for a few seasons now. Castillo was signed as a long term project back in 2011, and his game has matured. Mauro, on the other hand, is the deep lying playmaker. He hails from Argentina and brings a technical prowess glowing in his feet. He's one of the most talented players in the league, but he suffers for it in fouls and physical containment. If he can stay ahead of the OCSC defenders, then Mauro will add some assists and maybe a goal to his record.
MM2: What is the team's preferred style of play and formation?
BDS: FC Dallas thrives in a flat sprint counterattack. The team is forced into a 4-2-3-1 to accommodate Mauro Diaz as the #10, but they can also succeed with a 4-4-2. With Blas Perez and Tesho Akindele out of town with their Gold Cup nations, expect to see a 4-2-3-1 that will try to stretch the field to the chalk, giving our fleet-footed guys like Castillo and Michael Barrios room to run.
MM3: What are FC Dallas's strengths and weaknesses so far in 2015?
BDS: This team is wildly inconsistent. Just this last week, FCD won 2-0 against the in-state rival, lost 6-2 to a team we've beat earlier this year, then won 3-0. Dallas was top of the table for a few weeks earlier this season and has maintained above the playoff line all year, but we've imploded completely losing 4-0, two times now.
Set piece defending appears to be a problem. For years, FC Dallas was known for a staunch defense and strong goalkeeping. Dallas still boasts very strong keepers in Dan Kennedy, Chris Seitz, and up-and-coming homegrown Jesse Gonzalez. However, the team has conceded more set pieces goals than expected. Dallas is way down scoring set piece goals as well, compared to last year. A big part of that is the limited minutes Michel has received. He struggles with defensive duties, so it's not worth having him on the field if he isn't making those highlight reel free kicks regularly.
MM4: What are the fans' expectations for this year's FCD squad?
BDS: We expect FCD to qualify for the playoffs. We expected to make a strong run for the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, as ownership likes to boast. However, the lineup we saw last week was less than desired, and the boys couldn't hang with Sporting KC's first team. We will continue to see the homegrown and youth projects develop. Although it is a hindrance to league games, we are proud to have 5 internationals called up for the Gold Cup. Tesho Akindele (Canada) was Dallas' Rookie of the Year draft pick last season, and Moises Hernandez is a homegrown player from right here in North Texas now representing Guatemala.
Dallas' strength is its youth. They are fast and creative. The advantage of a young team is that they will try stuff veterans tend not to risk. This leads to goals out of nowhere. It also leads to red cards and hard learning opportunities. We've seen a bit of both in 2015. Those players in particular, started with FCD in MLS, so you would hope that something the club is doing right helped them to gain those international roster spots.
What is your predicted starting XI and score prediction?
BDS: With no Kaka and no Cyle Larin, I am hoping that Dallas can piece together a team worthy of beating Orlando without their offensive sparks. Dallas has struggled mightily on the road this year, but I believe they can buck the trend this weekend. I am calling 3-0 Dallas; mostly because if it's isn't a strong win, it will be a depressing, multi-goal loss. Dallas doesn't have many close games.
Starting XI: Kennedy, Harris, Hedges, Zimmerman, Loyd, Ulloa, Acosta, Hollingshead, Diaz, Castillo, Texeira