To get everyone ready for Atlanta United’s matchup against Orlando City, we spoke to The Mane Land’s Logan Oliver to get his take on their recent regular season collapses, James O’ Connor, and Carlos Ascues.
DSS: Orlando has gotten off to good starts in the past two seasons just to see their campaign fall apart midway through. What can you attribute this to?
ML: It’s impossible to pin down. There are several factors and problems that caused both drop-offs and that’s without considering the fact that City has had a summer swoon in the two seasons prior. Last season, Orlando relied on strong defense and Cyle Larin and it never seemed sustainable. This year, Orlando looked like a team on the brink of figuring things out. Bedding in so many new players was never going to go smoothly, but the team’s top defenders were plagued with injuries, Yoshimar Yotun missed a ton of time with Peru at the World Cup, and it was all compounded with a coaching change which normally means another growing period. The club needs some stability more than anything else.
DSS: How has James O’Connor done since being hired as manager?
ML: The offense has definitely improved under James. The Lions are no longer relying on Dom Dwyer to be the be-all, end-all solution up top with the midfielders chipping in goals. Orlando has scored 13 goals in seven league matches under O’Connor and was held scoreless just once. Defensive lapses continue to haunt the defense though, and some tinkering with personnel hasn’t really helped matters. There are signs that James will be successful long-term, but he’ll need time which will likely include shaping the team his way.
DSS: Do we see new signing Carlos Ascues make his debut on Friday?
ML: It’s probably too early for Carlos, but it might depend on how committed O’Connor is to playing him at center back. He just got into town on Friday after a snag in the paperwork delayed the transfer for about a week, and combined with Jonathan Spector rejoining training, Ascues’ time to shine on the back line will likely have to wait. However, with Yoshimar Yotun and Cristian Higuita suspended, there may just be an opportunity in central midfield off the bench if James is willing to give it a go.