ORLANDO, Fla. — It’s a bit of an awkward situation.
After Wednesday’s home loss to Philadelphia, that was the best way that forward Tesho Akindele could describe Orlando City’s rematch against the Union this Saturday. The two teams had only two days to rest, review film and travel back up the coast for round two of the series. Now, Orlando City is faced with the challenge of taking on the top team in the conference again, this time on its home field, after ceding two red cards and three goals on Wednesday.
The teams’ first meeting started strong for Orlando City, with forward Chris Mueller netting a goal in the eighth minute of play. But by the end of the first half, everything fell apart as Union forward Kacper Przybylko struck home an equalizer and defender Robin Jansson earned a red card for a tackle. The Union scored two more goals in the first 10 minutes of the second half, then earned a two-man advantage when midfielder Sacha Kljestan went cleats down on an opponent and earned a red card. Orlando City recovered after Kljestan’s ejection, but the damage was done and the team limped away with a 3-1 loss.
Heading into the rematch, a main challenge for coach James O’Connor is the same that he has faced during the past few weeks — managing the load of six games during the course of three weeks. Playing one or two men down for the entire second half only wore out players even further and the red card suspensions of Jansson and Kljestan will thin the roster even further.
“I think the issue for Saturday is that we’ve got a load of guys that have played a lot of minutes and have covered a lot of ground,” O’Connor said. “And we’ve got another game against New York on Wednesday. We’re really going to have to manage this situation because I think when you cover that amount of ground with the players that we have, you just have to be really careful.”
With defender João Moutinho still sidelined with a hamstring injury, the loss of Jansson will be a particular difficult blow to the backline. Orlando City has transitioned into a four-back formation, with Jansson serving as one half of the centerback core alongside Lamine Sané. Without Jansson, O’Connor might return to the three-back formation he favored to start the season.
Despite Wednesday’s result, Rowe said that his teammates are eager to return to the field against Philadelphia. After analyzing Wednesday’s game, they’ve identified that the loss came down to 10 minutes — the start of the second half, when the defense allowed a pair of goals in under nine minutes. Even down nine men, Orlando was able to contain Philadelphia, preventing a result that Rowe believed could have “gotten out of hand.”
Now, the easiest way to wipe away the memory of those mistakes will be to create a new result.
“We’ve got confidence in the depth of our roster, Rowe said. “It’s a tough stretch of games, but you take each game one game at a time. Especially after a result like [Wednesday], you don’t want to have a long time between games. It’s nice to just get right back out there and try to get going in the right direction again. … It’ll be a good opportunity to go out there and get some revenge.”
Orlando City vs. Philadelphia Union, 7
Where: Talen Energy Stadium
Watch: WRBW-Channel 65 in Orlando
The Buzz: Orlando City and Philadelphia faced off at Exploria Stadium on Wednesday, with the Union winning 3-1. … Orlando City ceded two red cards in that meeting, and defender Robin Jansson and midfielder Sacha Kljestan will be suspended from the rematch… Orlando City is led by star designated player Nani, who paces the team in goals (7) and assists (4). … Striker Dom Dwyer returned for the final minutes of action against the Union Wednesday after missing four games due to a hamstring injury and the birth of his daughter, taking three shots in the teams’ first meeting. … Midfielder Cristian Higuita and defender João Moutinho will both miss the game with hamstring injuries. … Forward Kacper Przybylko leads the Union with eight goals.