On Saturday Real Salt Lake with host Orlando City SC. Orlando are coming off an exciting win against the Colorado Rapids, whereas Real have had four losses in a row. Ben Miller was kind enough to answer some of our questions ahead the match.
How have Orlando improved this season? 2018 was a bad year for the team, what are your expectations for 2019?
Ben Miller: The biggest area of improvement in my opinion has been the full/wingbacks. The acquisitions of Joao Moutinho and Ruan have really added a new dimension to the team through Moutinho’s ability to get forward and play excellent crosses into the box, and Ruan’s electric speed and ability to beat his man 1v1. It isn’t a coincidence that Orlando’s two victories have come in games where both men have shone, particularly going forward.
My expectations are pretty simple: improve. Every year of the team’s MLS existence has been worst than the last and that has to change this season period. It would be great to be challenging for a playoff spot come the business end of the season but I don’t really have the full measure of this team yet.
Danny Acosta started the first three games for Orlando but hasn’t made the 18 for the last three — what happened for him to fall out of consideration like that?
Ben Miller: For me the emergence of the two men I mentioned early is the reason for Acosta not being in James O’Connor’s plans for the last several games. Joao Moutinho specifically has played so well since his first start in the win over the New York Red Bulls that you simply can’t leave him out of the lineup, and for the time being he’s supplanted Acosta in the left wingback/fullback position. It’s a long season and I think we’ll definitely see Acosta again but for now that position is Moutinho’s to lose.
What are your thoughts on Nani’s altercations with Kellyn Acosta last weekend? Besides the drama of that interaction, what has he brought to the team?
Ben Miller: I think that situation was a bit tricky. He certainly aggressively moved his head towards Acosta but to me it didn’t look like he made too much contact, and if he did it didn’t seem to be very hard. However, as we saw in the foul called against Dom Dwyer when he slid in on Wayne Rooney, it doesn’t take contact for a foul to be called, intent is enough reason to blow the whistle. For me I would have been okay with him being booked or sent off if the referee had decided that was appropriate, but I’m also okay with the no call. Essentially, I’ve seen that called both ways so I wouldn’t have been too upset either way.
Aside from that though I think he’s brought a lot of things to this team. As last week’s game demonstrated he definitely has goals in him, he’s second on the team with two, and first on the team in assists with four. Beyond that though he brings calmness on the ball and the ability to play clever passes that other players might not necessarily see. He’s also a veteran leader and brings a lot of experience which could be invaluable for young players like Chris Mueller and Santiago Patino.
To read our responses to The Mane Land’s questions, follow the link below: