The New England Revolution join UDN's Friday night lineup this weekend as they travel down to Florida to take on Orlando City SC for the first time in club history. We spoke with Michael Citro of The Mane Land, SB Nation's Orlando blog, to get a better idea of what to expect.
TBM: You're now a few months into the first MLS season for Orlando City. Talk about how it feels to have top-flight soccer in town, and the impact the club is having on the community.
MC: If feels pretty great and the community is very psyched about it. The club has energized the city. There is purple everywhere and you can't really go anywhere without seeing an Orlando City hat or shirt. The crowds have been great and it's telling when all I have to do is walk around the office at work to see Orlando City paraphernalia in people cubicles.
The performances have been great and most people are being pretty patient and philosophical about the lack of results so far.
TBM: Kaka is clearly the major story in this squad, for good reason. He was one of the best players in the world for much of his career, and he's expected to bring a touch of otherworldly class to the club. Has he delivered so far this season?
MC: The captain has been as advertised. He leads the club in goals and is good for a few "whoa" moments every game. Someone on New England is about to get nutmegged Friday night and they don't even know it yet. It's easy to see from watching him that he thinks the game at a faster speed than most MLS players. Maybe he's lost a step but he's learned to be crafty.
TBM: People talk about Orlando's issues up top. Who is the best striker on the roster right now, and why isn't he or anyone else scoring?
MC: The best striker on the roster is probably Martin Paterson, who has yet to play a match. Paterson was brought in to be a veteran presence and shepherd guys like Cyle Larin and Bryan Rochez into becoming professionals. But Pato's hamstring didn't get the memo and so the youngsters have been thrown to the wolves. Rochez is just 20, is away from his native country for the first time for an extended period and is still adjusting. Larin is very athletic and shows flashes but he's still learning the game at this level.
But expansion clubs typically have trouble finding their rhythm and chemistry. There are moments where they look like worldbeaters and then simply can't find the final ball. The Lions absolutely dominated D.C. United at home a few weeks ago but couldn't find the net (or at least a hole in Bill Hamid's game). Kevin Molino's season-ending injury hurts but some of the other pieces should be getting healthy soon (although just in time for a bunch of guys to leave on international duty for the U-20 World Cup and the Gold Cup). Sigh.
TBM: Give us an under-the-radar player Revs fans should watch out for.
MC: Right back Rafael Ramos had a bit of a meltdown in Columbus, getting sent off and missing the Toronto FC game, but he's been fantastic all season. He made the MLS Team of the Week in the second week of the season for shutting down Brad Davis and DaMarcus Beasley in the win at Houston. The U-20 Portuguese international has speed, creativity and confidence. He unfortunately loses his right side partner in Molino now so it remains to be seen how he'll do in the near future.
TBM: Finally, let's have your projected starting XI and scoreline prediction.
MC: Ricketts; Boden, Hines, Collin, Ramos; Higuita, Okugo; Shea, Kaká, Avila; Larin
I'm not going to start predicting home wins until the team starts scoring goals in MLS games at home, although the team scored three times in a friendly last Saturday against a Brazilian top flight team. I'll be hopeful and say the Lions score a goal and hold the Revs to just one for a 1-1 draw.