When: Friday, April 23, 2021 at 6:30 PM CT
Where: Children’s Mercy Park
How to Watch/Stream: | Fox Sports 1 (FS1)
How to Listen: Sports Radio 810 WHB | La Grande 1340 AM (Spanish)
Sporting Kansas City will return to Children’s Mercy Park for the first time since their 2020 season ended against Minnesota United last December. They will be greeted by a larger crowd than last time out as well, as capacity is up to 35 percent of what the stadium can hold — about 6,500 fans. They will welcome an Orlando City team who had a hard fought draw against their former kryptonite in Atlanta United.
SKC are of course coming off a rousing 2-1 road win that didn’t always look great in Week 1, but counts for three points all the same. Previously it was thought the first three weeks would count towards US Open Cup qualification, but those plans are on hold. Instead Sporting will play it’s second consecutive game against an Eastern Conference foe (and it’s next to last one of the year).
These teams have a fairly contentious history after initially being affiliates when Orlando was in the United Soccer League. In recent years Sporting worked over Orlando in the Dom Dwyer trade and Orlando has gotten the last laugh with the better results on the field. SKC are just 2-3-1 against OCSC in the regular season and haven’t won since September of 2018. Orlando won the 2019 and 2020 meetings between these clubs, with a game home and away over that stretch.
Orlando City’s 2020 & 2021 Results
As mentioned above, Orlando earned a draw in their season opener and going into Week 2 they sit in eighth place in the East.
In 2020 they finished fourth in a 14 team Eastern Conference on 41 points in 23 games (Sporting had 39 points in 21 games in the West). Orlando ultimately advanced out of the first round beating fellow 2015 expansion side New York City FC on penalties in a crazy game that saw a field player in goal during PKs. They would ultimately succumb to the New England Revolution in the second round. Overall, 2020 was the first really successful season for Orlando since they came into MLS.
What’s Changed for Orlando City Since 2020?
Head Coach, Oscar Pareja is back at the helm for his second season looking to improve on year one’s results. He’ll have his hands full as the team is down one if it’s best players.
OUT: Former Sporting KC striker Dom Dwyer is out (but he wasn’t much of a factor in recent seasons). That’s not the story at striker. The story is Daryl Dike, who is currently on loan with Barnsley in the English Championship (who frankly, play soccer kind of weird). Dike has been lighting England on fire and seems very likely to ultimately be sold, whether it’s to Barnsley or to one of the numerous other teams looking to acquire him. He was the third overall pick in the 2020 Super Draft...
Outside of their two strikers, there aren’t a ton of notable names on the list of players who are gone. Defender Kamal Miller was drafted by Austin FC. Then four others had contract options declined.
IN: By far the biggest addition is Alexandre Pato. The Brazilian played for such gigantic teams as AC Milan and was recently Sao Paulo. He is supposed to be their answer at striker, but he left the season opener injured.
They also added winger Silvester van der Water via transfer from Heracles (Netherlands). He joins talented players like Nani and Chris Mueller on the wing. Orlando also signed a pair of Homegrowns (Raul Aguilera and Wilfredo Rivera) and acquired goalkeeper Brandon Austin on loan from Tottenham Hotspur.
QUESTIONABLE - None
*This has been updated based on the official injury report (the three players who are out) and PV’s media availability.
OUT - Pato (knee)
QUESTIONABLE - Robin Jansson (lower body), Joao Moutinho (lower body), Uri Rosell (lower body), David Loera (lower body)
SUSPENDED - Mauricio Pereyra
GOALS: Daniel Salloi, Gadi Kinda (1)
ASSISTS: Khiry Shelton (1)
Starting XI Predictions
I’m one for one on predictions. Not only did I get it right, but I got the score right. That means I’m probably doomed from here out.
As of this writing, it’s not clear if Alan Pulido and Johnny Russell will be larger participants in Friday’s home opener. They both got on late in the win over the New York Red Bulls, but neither had an impact. What is clear is that the goalkeeper situation will remain somewhat short-handed. Then 19 and now 20-year-old John Pulskamp appears likely to start in between the pipes (whether McIntosh can go or not) and it’s likely he’ll be tested more by Orlando than he was by RBNY.
The whole team is likely to be under more duress, even though it’s a home game, as Orlando has plenty in the attack, even without being certain who will play striker. Nani and Mueller are good talents and will test what was a sometimes shaky backline in week one. SKC will have to be better to get the same result, but I’ll predict the home crowd gives them the life they need.
2-1 Sporting KC Win
What do you think? Predictions in the comments are welcome. Let’s chat about it.
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