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Know thy Enemy: Three questions with The Mane Land

Three questions with the Orlando City blog on SBNation.com.

MLS: Toronto FC at Orlando City SC Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It is nearly game day which means it is time to get together with another blog here on the network to preview the upcoming FC Dallas game. This week we’re thankful to bring in Michael Citro from The Mane Land to discuss Monday evening’s game with Orlando City.

BDS: Orlando has had a knack this season for tying games, especially at home. What is the main cause for this team not being able to grind out a win?

TML: There are multiple factors that have contributed to the number of draws that have piled up this year. The club never quits, so there have been several times when the Lions have rescued a point with a late goal (or two). Orlando scored twice in stoppage to draw Real Salt Lake in the opener and came back from two down at New York City FC at the end of May, scoring the equalizer in the 94th minute. On the other hand, the team has switched off at times with a late lead, as was the case against the Philadelphia Union on May 25.

And there have been weird things like the handball-that-wasn't-a-handball against Servando Carrasco deep in stoppage against New England. Almost any human being could see it wasn't a handball, but Baldomero Toledo proved to be an exception. That gave Lee Nguyen a spot kick and resulted in yet another tie.

So, it's been a number of things, but one common theme in all of those games is that there were squandered opportunities to score. Even though Orlando is among the most prolific scoring teams in MLS, there have been wasted chances that could have put teams away and avoided some of these draws.

BDS: The attack has looked really good this season with Cyle Larin still firing on all cylinders and Kevin Molino looking healthy again. What would you say has been the biggest change in this group this season? Is it a matter of good health for a change or are they just clicking more as a unit now?

TML: Several factors have contributed. You mentioned Larin, who has continued to improve areas of his game outside of his pure goal scoring. You also mentioned Molino, who has finally gotten to show MLS what he can do. He works so well playing off of Kaká and working with several of the team’s more attack-minded players, like Julio Baptista, Larin and Adrian Winter. Molino sometimes can try to get a bit too cute with the ball in traffic, but he’s capable of insane moments of skill. His presence has provided depth for when Kaká has missed time with injuries, as he can also move into the middle.

Another factor is just the fact that the team has been together more than a year. Some new pieces have come in and some have gone, but the team is more cohesive. They have grown closer as a unit, which has helped with chemistry. Guys like Winter and David Mateos have a full MLS training camp under their belts now. Baptista has adapted quickly, and newcomer Kevin Alston (formerly of New England) has mostly played well for an ailing Rafael Ramos. About the only newcomer who hasn’t made an impact is Antonio Nocerino, who is yet to find his footing in the league.

Finally, there’s the health issue, you asked about. It’s not been as bad as last season, although we’ve seen less of Kaká than we’d like. Still, the depth has been tested through suspensions, knocks, and the odd international appearance here and there. There’s been more overall continuity this season but still not as much as you’d like to see.

BDS: Orlando hasn't won away from home since March. What do they need to do differently to pick up points on Monday?

TML: The Lions have to be better defensively. Scoring the first goal is important but its importance kind of flies out the window when the team parks the bus after getting its goal. Too often, Orlando has grabbed an important goal early, or at least scored first, and then has stopped pressing high and allowed the other team to build wave after wave of attack. They get too passive at times and the back line – which can potentially be a good one, and is at times – hasn’t been able to play mistake free. The Lions seemingly have been punished for every single defensive lapse they’ve had.

The other thing they must do is to capitalize on chances. The team creates enough chances to often score three or four goals and win comfortably. However, there are too often times when golden opportunities are shot over the bar, wide, or right at the keeper, which helps the opponent hang around long enough to either pull level or take a late lead. Orlando simply hasn’t been able to put teams away when they’ve had them down.

Predicted lineup

I’m not sure if we’ll see additional punishment for Molino’s red card on Wednesday night, but if he’s in, I think we’ll see something like the standard Adrian Heath 4-2-3-1:

Joe Bendik; Brek Shea, Seb Hines, David Mateos, Kevin Alston; Cristian Higuita, Darwin Ceren; Carlos Rivas, Kaká, Kevin Molino; Cyle Larin.