KANSAS CITY – Sporting Kansas City will take on Orlando City in their home opener of the 2020 season. Orlando played to a goalless draw with their southern soccer rivals, Atlanta United, while Sporting KC out red-bulled the Red Bulls in a 2-1 road victory to start their season. Our Sporting KC preview gets you caught up on all the notes and nuances as Sporting KC takes on Orlando on prime-time, national T.V.
Sporting KC vs. Orlando City: Match Preview
Since it is early in the year, we don’t have a whole lot of Orlando City tape. I decided to cash in a “phone a friend” and reached out to Julia Poe, who covers the Orlando soccer scene for the Orlando Sentinel. Not only is she the Orlando beat writer, she grew up in Kansas City giving her a great insight and understanding as to how these two match up. Here is our Q&A to better get to know the opponent:
Q: Nani, Pato, and Chris Mueller are names that most Sporting KC fans will know. Without Pato though, who else should Sporting KC fans keep an eye on in the attack?
A: Andrés Perea was a gamechanger in the Lions’ home opener against Atlanta United when he came in as a second half substitute. Without Mauricio Pereyra in the No. 10 position (he’s serving the second match of a red card suspension) Perea is likely to fill in that role as a stabilizing force for the attack. Meanwhile, Matheus Aiás and Tesho Akindele are the forwards most likely to step up with Pato sidelined. Aiás is a hungry young striker who’s been bullish on fighting for a starting position, so he could be poised for a big night leading the top of that attack.
Q: Last season, Orlando’s backline handled the physical challenge that Khiry Shelton brought to them pretty easily. Obviously trying to beat that back line with physicality isn’t something that works, so what does? What would that kryptonite be for them?
A: The main challenges for the backline right now are injuries as starting centerback Robin Jansson and starting leftback João Moutinho are both out with injuries. Kyle Smith and Rodrigo Schlegel filled in seamlessly last week, but this will be a step up for them as they face a disciplined attack on the road. The left side of the backline might be more vulnerable as a result as the pair get accustomed to one another.
Q: Oscar Pareja is a well known name in Kansas City. His sides routinely frustrate opposition and are difficult to break down, but in Dallas, I’d argue he didn’t really come close to the type of attacking talent that he has in Orlando. Has that changed how he approaches games now that he has that type of attacking talent to pull from?
Q: If Sporting KC are going to get three points against Orlando, they’ll need to do ______? And for Orlando, if they’re going to beat Sporting KC, they’ll need to do______?
Q: What’s a general prediction for the match?
Confirmed out for Sporting KC: Graham Zusi, Ilie Sanchez, Brooks Thompson, Tim Melia.
Questionable for Sporting KC: Alan Pulido, Kendall McIntosh, Johnny Russell, Amadou Dia
Confirmed out for Orlando City: Alexander Pato and Mauricio Pereya (Suspended), Uri Rossell, Robin Jansson, Joao Moutinhho
Given what we were able to see in training this week, I’m not sure if Pulido or Russell are going to start. They will only start if they can handle 60 minutes, and it just doesn’t seem like they’re there yet. Besides, they had some really good link up play down the right with that squad. Given the weakened left side of the back line for Orlando, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sporting go with this and pull Pulido and/or Russell on around the 60th minute. Everything else is pretty self explanatory.
Sporting are missing some key players, and so are Orlando. But Sporting KC is usually pretty amped up for their home opener and I expect nothing less. Sporting wins 3-1.
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