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Three questions on Orlando City with The Mane Land

Orlando is sitting below the playoff line but this could still be a tricky game for FC Dallas.

MLS: Orlando City SC at FC Dallas Andrew Dieb-USA TODAY Sports

As the weekend approaches we are happy to welcome in a fellow SB Nation blog to help preview our FC Dallas game against Orlando City. The Mane Land’s Ben Miller joins us today to give us some insight on what the Lions bring to the table for Saturday’s game.

You can read our responses here.

BDS: Orlando is coming off a rather ugly loss in New England last weekend. What kind of changes do you expect them to make this week? Will the All-Star Game be a big distraction for them too?

TML: I would expect Sacha Kljestan to drop back to the bench, most likely in exchange for Chris Mueller or Dom Dwyer, and I think Will Johnson will be back in the starting lineup as well. Tactically its difficult to say but I can’t imagine the team simply trying to sit back and soak up pressure for this game. The Lions really need a win to try and get things back on track so it’ll most likely be full steam ahead. I don’t see the All-Star Game being too big of a distraction for them. Nani was the only one to play in the game, and while he, Chris Mueller, and Sebas Mendez all took part in (and won) the Skills Challenge, I think James O’Connor has made it very clear where everyone’s priorities should lie.

BDS: Nani was obviously the main guy brought in this offseason for Orlando. What has he brought to the table and has he lived up to the hype and expectations so far?

TML: Nani has brought a level of dynamism and creativity that the team was definitely lacking last season. He’s very skilled on the ball, is an excellent passer, smart finisher, and has also provided some very good veteran leadership. He isn’t necessarily going to beat anyone by virtue of pure speed, but he’s been a very good addition to the team. He’s slightly dropped off since a red-hot start to the season but the same is true of the team’s performances as a whole. All in all he’s certainly lived up to the billing.

BDS: Orlando is sitting just south of the red line in the Eastern Conference. What is it going to take for them to get over the hump and reach the playoffs this season?

TML: The team has really been in need of goals. Simply put, the Lions don’t score enough. The forwards don’t always get quality service, and that means a lack of quality chances. However, when they have been getting chances they’ve been having trouble putting the ball in the back of the net. Orlando did just sign Mauricio Pereyra, an attacking midfielder with the ability to pick the final pass to unlock a defense. He and the rest of the team need to begin creating better chances and putting those chances away or this team won’t be making it over the hump to their first playoff berth.

BDS: What injuries, suspensions, call-ups are the Lions dealing with this week? Also, what is the projected lineup?

TML: Cristian Higuita is out with a hamstring injury and Shane O’Neill and Alex De John are both questionable and in concussion protocol.

Projected lineup:

GK: Brian RoweDF: Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Lamine Sane, RuanMF: Sebas Mendez, Will Johnson, Uri RosellF: Nani, Tesho Akindele, Chris Mueller