Match Preview: 5.11 & 13.2012 at Antigua Barracuda FC
Orlando City makes the rare trip South to face off against AntiguaORLANDO, Fla. – Orlando City Soccer Club will face off against Antigua Barracuda FC twice in three days this weekend in St. John’s, Antigua and Barbuda. Kickoff for the first match at Sir Viv Richards Stadium is set for Friday at 7 p.m.
Orlando City comes into the match riding a five-game unbeaten streak, and is fresh off a thrilling 3-2 home victory over Pittsburgh Riverhounds. The Lions have yet to concede a goal in two road trips, and look to keep the opposing score sheets clean in the weekend series. The Barracudas recent goal-scoring woes suggest that City stands a good chance of keeping the streak alive.
Antigua comes into the match with just two wins in six games. They’ve also been shut out in three straight. While that seems to bode well for the stringy Lions defense, Head Coach Adrian Heath expects the Barracudas to have some bite.
“Their results probably aren’t reflective of their performances,” said Heath. “They’re big, they’re strong, they’re athletic. That in itself causes its own problems.”
City’s smaller line-up has struggled with bigger teams, as evidenced by the 0-0 draw against Richmond two weeks ago. Last week’s match with Pittsburgh was another physical one that saw both go scoreless for 60-plus minutes before Dennis Chin’s goal opened the floodgates.
In a similar trip last season, Orlando defeated Antigua in both games by a combined 5-2 score line. While the Lions dominated both matches, the Barracudas were without several key players due to suspensions. Those suspensions came at the hands of City, thanks to a fight that broke out in Antigua’s only visit to the Citrus Bowl last season. Adrian Heath expects a better battle with the Barracudas this time around.
“Like everybody in the league, we thought they would be better than they were last year. I think in the end, their results will reflect that. We know we’re in for two very, very difficult games.”
The Lions will travel with the full roster to Antigua, minus the injured Justin Clark. Clark is still nursing an ankle injury. Key defender Rob Valentino will be available, but his status specifically for Friday’s match is in question.
“You don’t know what team you’re going to have for the second game,” said Heath. “You can pick up a few injuries, you could get a red card. You try to prepare for all eventualities. We know it’s going to be a difficult game.”
Both matches will be broadcast on USL Nation, the United Soccer Leagues’ free online video-streaming service. Kickoff for Friday’s match is set for 7 p.m. The second leg on Sunday will start at 4:30 p.m.
Player to Watch - Ian Fuller:
Fuller has been a revelation for the Orlando City Lions early in the season. After struggling with injuries and a shifting role to player/coach, Adrian Heath’s assistant is on fire in 2012. Usually featuring as a substitute, Fuller has scored twice in the last three games. More importantly, Fuller provides a calming influence on the squad. His dual role as player/coach makes him essentially a second captain. The squad always responds when Fuller enters the fray.
During the last trip to Antigua, Fuller did not play as he led the Lions as Head Coach. Heath was prevented from making the trip due to visa issues. Expect Fuller to feature in both matches as he vies for the team lead in goals scored. He’s only one behind current leader and fellow super-sub Dennis Chin.
Miguel Gallardo, Sean Kelley, Luke Boden, Mechack Jerome, Erik Ustruck, Kieron Bernard, Rob Valentino, Kyle Davies, Wes Allen, Ian Fuller, John Rooney, Charlie Campbell, Anthony Pulis, James O’Connor, Kevin Molino, Jamie Watson, Matt Luzunaris, Dennis Chin, Max Griffin