BDS: It feels weird asking this late in the season, but tell us about Orlando this year. Who are some players that FC Dallas fans may not know of going into this weekend's game?
TML: The new hotness is Yoshimar Yotun. The Peruvian international has come in and completely changed Orlando City's midfield since the summer transfer window. Yoshi has a knack for seeing passes that many MLS midfielders don't see and his dead ball service gives Orlando a dimension that was sorely lacking. Yotun set up two goals and scored his first MLS goal Wednesday against New England in what was probably his best outing since joining Orlando.
Aside from Yoshi, right back Scott Sutter and center back Jonathan Spector are new to Orlando since our teams last met. FC Dallas fans will likely remember Spector from his time with the USMNT, but Sutter was largely an unknown in this country. He was playing in Switzerland with Young Boys and he's come in and given the Lions a solid two-way fullback with excellent ball skills and crossing ability, providing a goal and four assists this season.
BDS: Orlando, like Dallas, is currently fighting for a playoff spot. With only three games to go, how big of a letdown will it be if the Lions fail to make the post season? Any chance this could get Jason Kreis fired?
TML: At this point it's far more likely for the Lions to miss the playoffs rather than make it above the line so we remain hopeful yet realistic about our chances. It is a pretty big letdown after being in the Supporters Shield position after the first two months of the season, but it's been a long, slow spiral almost all the way to the Eastern Conference basement. The team just isn't quite there yet, although the last two transfer windows have been solid. Another one like that might be all that's needed for the club to finally turn the corner.
I don't expect Jason Kreis to be let go. The ownership group was very high on Kreis and I think the conversations before his hiring set the table for a projected timeline to get things going. The fast start for Orlando got a lot of us thinking the team was better than it was, but we've had a huge slap of reality since May started. Kreis is likely to get another off-season transfer window and training camp but if the results don't come by the All-Star break next year it's unlikely he'll be able to hang on any longer than that.
BDS: Wednesday was a big night for Orlando with the 6-1 win over the Revs. What lead to the big outburst in production? Was it just a team taking care of business or more of the fact that New England is the worst road team in the league this season?
TML: I think it was a combination of several factors. New England had a man sent off early in the match, which was a big part of it. The Revolution are also terrible on the road and once the Lions put a couple in the net it was unlikely the Revs would find a way back into it. Orlando City also put shots on target, which has been a problem this season. We've seen an ungodly amount of balls fizzing inches wide of the net or hitting the woodwork this year and on another night the goals by Yotun, Dom Dwyer, and Kaká would have been off frame rather than placed too perfectly for Cody Cropper to stop. Even Antonio Nocerino, the team's most snake-bitten player, finally scored an MLS goal. He's been close so many times that you just started wondering if it would ever happen for him. On Wednesday, it finally did.
Cristian Higuita (calf) is out and backup goalkeeper Josh Saunders (neck surgery) is out for the year. Will Johnson was suspended by MLS for his arrest on domestic violence charges. Everyone else should be available.
Starting XI will most likely be: Joe Bendik; Donny Toia, Jonathan Spector, Seb Hines, Scott Sutter; Yoshimar Yotun, Antonio Nocerino, Kaka, Giles Barnes; Dom Dwyer, Cyle Larin. But there could be some squad rotation from Wednesday.
Could this be the year we finally score on FC Dallas? Maybe. I'll predict 1-1 as a final score.