It’s been just a week since Atlanta United’s first meeting against Orlando City in 2020, and the next one is already around the corner. As is custom, we brought in Ben Miller, an expert on the Purple Lions from The Mane Land to let us know what to expect Saturday night in Florida. A big thanks to Ben!
Q: With 3 goals in 6 games so far, what’s made Daryl Dike so effective in his rookie season? Can he be the next Cyle Larin, or his ceiling even higher?
A: A big part of Dike’s success is tied to his physicality. He’s listed at 6’2, 220 pounds so he’s a big boy and as such he attracts a lot of attention from opposing center backs. So far, he’s been able to do a good job at controlling balls played into him, holding up play, and putting defenders on his back and turning them. He’s also flashed some very good examples of situational awareness, and has a knack for bringing his teammates into play rather than always looking for his own offense. Essentially, he’s just been able to do a bit of everything that you would want from a typical no. 9, which is something that Orlando City have sorely needed. As far as his ceiling is concerned, it’s pretty early but I would say his ceiling is at least as high as Larin’s and if his passing ability and first touch continue to improve then I think it could be higher.
Q: Orlando has turned its MLS fortunes around this season, and looks to be (whispers) one of the best teams in the league? What’s been the catalyst for that, and why have previous years been so poor?
A: As simplistic as it sounds, the team finally looks like it has an identity and intentional way of playing, and in years past that wasn’t necessarily the case. Players look like they know what the plan is and how to execute it, and again that’s just not something that we saw from this team consistently up until this year. The other big thing is that it seems the club finally has the right people in place both at head coach and the front office. Luiz Muzzi has made some great signings since being named Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations in December of 2018. Some of the names he’s brought in include Ruan, Junior Urso, Mauricio Pereyra, Pedro Gallese, Nani...the list goes on and on. Bringing in quality players who play a way that fits your style is never a bad thing, and its been a big reason for Orlando’s turnaround.
Q: Did the club’s first ever win over Atlanta teach you anything major, or was it more or less expected considering the current state of each team?
A: I don’t know if I’d say I expected it. Like many Orlando fans, the Atlanta-Orlando matchup has caused me a fair amount of emotional trauma the last two years so I was cautiously optimistic at the very best. The thing I learned most from the game is that OCSC showed it can win in a couple different ways. Up till last weekend, in its wins Orlando had either roughly the same amount of possession as their opposition or the Lions dominated the ball and controlled the game. That was hardly the case on Saturday, with Atlanta having about 62% of the ball. Orlando still finding a way to win was quite unexpected, because it simply isn’t something I’m used to seeing from this team. Whether its something that they’ll be able to do consistently...still too early to say I suppose. But it did make for a nice change.
Q: Prediction for the game this weekend?
A: Oscar Pareja gave Nani the night off in Nashville on Wednesday and Pereyra and Dike didn’t play past the 61st minute, and Chris Mueller only played about 35 minutes. With a lot of key players who should be well rested I think Orlando will be able to get the job done at home in front of a limited number of fans. I’ll say 2-1 in favor of Orlando.