Discover more from The Blazing Musket
Revolution vs Orlando City, and Fixture Congestion, and Backup Keepers Edition
Heavy fixture congestion means MLS sides are playing through international windows again, which hopefully is merely a recent reversal to an unwanted scenario.
For years the fledgling Major League Soccer played through international breaks which caused short handed squads to put forth a less than stellar product to fit in necessary games due to stadium sharing and other issues.
While the league largely grew out of that phase, thankfully to the betterment of the sport and its players, today the New England Revolution will host Orlando City SC at Gillette Stadium (730pm EDT / AppleTV+) without their starting Serbian and Peruvian international keepers among other absences.
Serbia are in the middle of UEFA Euro Qualification and play at Bulgaria on Tuesday after a 3-2 friendly win against Jordan at home yesterday (Petrovic did not feature) and Peru is doing a dream friendly set against South Korea and Japan this window, with Pedro Gallese recording a 1-0 shutout against the Jurgen Klinsmann led Tigers of Asia yesterday.
The Blazing Musket is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Now obviously this is a tremendous opportunity for both keepers as well as backups Earl Edwards Jr for New England and Orlando homegrown Mason Stajduhar to feature today and both deserve to get regular season minutes as it is impossible to expect any starter to go all 34 games in an MLS slate.
But like in years past, playing through international windows is a built in rest period for the bulk of these squads and for a lot of teams, the Revs and OCSC included, desperately need that time to keep players healthy. This season coming off a winter World Cup and playing through not just international windows but also the entire Gold Cup to fit in the League Cup…is perhaps not the best idea when it comes to player safety.
Then you have the special case of LAFC which postponed several games due to a long CCL run and now they are individually paying for it with a double game week seemingly from now until the Leagues Cup which is also unhelpful for different reasons. LAFC’s might be more self inflicted and perhaps a couple of early MLS games should be sacrificed with a heavily rotated squad going 90 minutes in the quest for silverware but the larger point still stands - MLS is playing too many games with too small a competitive roster.
Clearly MLS’ hand was forced to an extend during the past few years between COVID and the World Cup schedules and this 2023 campaign feels like a slight side effect of that. But playing through the Gold Cup to force in the Leagues Cup still feels counter-intuituve when you look at the number of MLS players the USMNT will rely on in a little over a week, let alone the number of players the rest of CONCACAF will pull from MLS.
All of these matches signify some kind of opportunity for the greater good and to highlight individual players on a higher stage. Lionel Messi featuring in the Leagues Cup for Inter Miami alone is probably worth any kind of headache and complaining about the fixture congestion from a financial standpoint in particular.
Hopefully in the future MLS can use this exposure to grow their rosters and salary cap to help their teams compete in all of these tournaments because the exposure and development of players is one of the long term goals of the league. With recent transfer successes abroad and with the USMNT, and high profile Designated Players, the league is trending upward on numerous levels. Let’s just hope they remember to brake properly for some of the speed bumps along the way.
As always we are joined by our good friend Ben Miller of The Mane Land for all of our Orlando City related questions including OCSC on the road and just how good and/or how much better the Purple Lions offense needs to be. You can check out my answers to Ben’s questions over on their site.
TBM: Orlando City boasts one of the best road records in the East, but have struggled a bit at home? Is there any reason for this and what adjustments might ORL make against the Revs?
BM: At the end of the day, the Lions struggle to break down teams with the ball when they have the majority of possession. They've proven to be far better at sitting back, winning the ball in dangerous areas or situations, and hitting teams on the counter. It's something that plays into putting in good performances on the road and much shakier ones at home, and that's been the case this year. I think you'll see the Lions stick to the road formula that they've found success with: sit back, be patient, and try to make the Revs pay for any mistakes that they make.
TBM: Orlando has a really balanced attack with Torres and Kara, and McGuire off the bench too. Is this enough offense to take a really good defense and Gallese deep into the playoffs?
BM: That's the big question. The scoring numbers have improved recently but we have yet to see if that's sustainable against some of the better teams in the league. On paper, the firepower is absolutely present to trouble almost any team that the Lions come up against, but things need to continue to gel up top. In that regard, the current international window couldn't really come at a worse time, as Facundo Torres is on duty with Uruguay just when he was starting to look like his old self again.
TBM: What does ORL need to do to break out of this mid table vibe they've been in the last few years? Are there some long term developing players in the pipeline or future targets we should know about?
BM: I touched on it a bit above, but the offense needs to keep improving. Defensively, things are sound. OCSC hasn't given up multiple goals in a game since a May 13th road match in Columbus on short rest, and has only given up multiple goals five times in 16 matches. Only four teams in the whole league have given up less than Orlando's 17, but if you're scoring one goal or fewer, which has happened to Orlando nine times this season, it can be tough to win games.
In terms of guys in the pipeline, the most likely ones are Jack Lynn and Abdi Salim. Both have already played minutes with the first team and consistently put in good work with Orlando City B in MLS NEXT Pro. That being said, I think both are a little ways away from getting frequent minutes with the senior side.
Pedro Gallese, Wilder Cartagena and Facundo Torres are all away on international duty. Gaston Gonzalez, Abdi Salim and Adam Grinwis are all out, while Luca Petrasso is questionable.
Mason Stajduhar; Rafael Santos, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, Mikey Halliday; Felipe Martins, Casar Araujo; Ivan Angulo, Martin Ojeda, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson; Ercan Kara
I'll say 1-1 with Ojeda grabbing the goal for Orlando.