Tomorrow night Minnesota United face another big challenge in Orlando City SC in the MLS Is Back Semi-Finals. Before we head into the round we spoke with Ben Miller of our sister site The Mane Land to get some insight on the Lions.
E Pluirbus Loonum: Orlando, like Minnesota, has been on a hot streak in the tournament. A 2-1-0 record in the group stage has been followed up with tight and tough wins against Montreal Impact and Los Angeles FC. Tell us how the reaction for OCSC fans was with those wins and what Orlando needs to do better in this round.
The Mane Land: For plenty of fans its been a mixture of surprise and obviously happiness. Orlando’s fortunes (or lack thereof) during the team’s MLS existence to date have been pretty well documented, and going into the tournament I think a lot of people were hoping they could just make it out of the group somehow. Since the team started not only winning but looking good and playing an attractive style while doing it, there’s definitely been some excitement building around the Lions. However, given the suffering fans have had to endure during the last five years there’s also a bit of unspoken worry that this all could be smoke and mirrors.The team absolutely has to do a better job of converting chances when it comes to tomorrow’s game. Orlando controlled the game and vastly outshot LAFC but was unable to make superior possession and shooting numbers really tell. The Lions have got to be more clinical in front of goal, especially because the team has been doing a pretty good job creating good chances and they just haven’t been taken.
EPL: One of your questions was what the biggest weakness is for Minnesota and what can Orlando exploit. I’m going to reciprocate that question and ask what is something Minnesota can exploit?
TML: If Orlando continues what its tried to do for most of this tournament in controlling possession and trying to keep the ball in Minnesota’s half, then there are going to be spaces at the back for the Loons to exploit. Fullbacks Ruan and Joao Moutinho love to get forward and if Minnesota can force a turnover and counterattack then they’ll probably get some good looks at goal out of it. The defense also doesn’t always look comfortable when teams are able to get players in the box and put in balls from out wide, so there could be some joy there as well.
EPL: Of course everyone knows Adrian Heath’s tenure with Orlando City. 3 USL Pro Regular Season titles and 2 USL Pro Playoff titles in 4 years before leading them into MLS. Talk to us about how it feels when you guys face MNUFC and Heath and with seeing him succeed in Minnesota. Is there any regret in firing him in the middle of OCSC’s second year in MLS?
TML: There are plenty of people in Orlando who didn’t think Heath should have been fired back when it happened in 2016, and I was one of those people. He was given the job when the team came to MLS with the understanding that he had a three year plan he’d be able to execute...only to be fired after just over a year and a half in charge. Obviously hindsight is 20/20 but the firing looks even worse when you see what he’s been able to do with Minnesota. So yes, there was regret at the time and there’s regret now, although that will start to finally subside if Oscar Pareja is able to help the team continue its recent run of good form. There’s still a lot of love for him in Orlando and for me at least its a little hard when the Lions come up against him.