With tomorrow’s nationally televised matchup vs. Orlando City SC looming, we talked to managing editor Michael Citro at The Mane Land to get a first hand perspective of what the Galaxy are facing tomorrow.
LAG Confidential: Orlando City have three wins from three matches in their spanking-new arena. How much of this is due to the home-field advantage Orlando City Stadium provides vs. the team and Jason Kreis' pragmatic approach following Kaka's opening-day injury?
The Mane Land: The stadium certainly seems to be having an effect. The place is loud and provides great energy to the team. The whole place just pulsates on match day. That said, there are other factors of importance in play here. Orlando City has improved defensively, in large part due to Jonathan Spector, but the fullback play is much improved as well and that’s an underrated part of the transformation.
Orlando City also has stepped up in the leadership department. Kreis has signed a number of high character players. Spector is one, but what Will Johnson and Giles Barnes have brought to the lineup is immeasurable. Those players in particular have brought a confidence to the rest of the squad that has so far transcended numerous injury absences and a sluggish start to the season for the offense.
LAG Confidential: Last year we asked The Mane Lane if Cyle Larin would be sold in the off-season, and the answer was the team would hold onto the Canadian international for another season. (He's still here)
Can OCSC convince Larin to stay in the league?
The Mane Land: Possibly. I think Larin will be here through the 2017 season and Orlando City has additional option years. But that in itself doesn’t mean a whole lot. If the offers from overseas aren’t to Larin’s liking and/or aren’t high enough for City to sell, there’s a good chance the club can offer the Canadian international a Designated Player slot and significantly increase his salary. Orlando City has all three DP slots filled but Kaká is in a contract year and isn’t getting any younger. He makes a lot of money. If the captain decides he wants to return, the club will likely bring him back, but he has talked in the past about wanting to end his career in Sao Paulo, so that spot may open up.
Additionally, the club could move on from Carlos Rivas or buy him down below DP level with allocation money. Finally, Giles Barnes occupies the third DP slot and he’s no spring chicken himself, and possibly is a one-year rental for Kreis. Or, again, he could be bought down with allocation money. Anyway, there are avenues for the club to make it difficult for Larin to leave, depending on what kind of offers roll in.
LAG Confidential: How important has the signing of Jonathan Spector been for the Lions?
The Mane Land: Jason Kreis was asked that question after last week’s game and his response was that Spector is “critical.” That’s high praise from the gaffer and it’s completely warranted. Spector has been a difference maker since his arrival. Not only has his play been superb, but his anticipation and reading of the game is on another level to any defender Orlando City has ever had. On top of that, he’s been a tremendous leader. His teammates respect him and listen to him and he’s continuously instructing, directing, and communicating on the field. The club has sustained the losses of three fullbacks, a center back, and a defensive midfield and yet only shipped three goals on the year. ‘Critical’ is the right word. Kreis nailed it with his assessment.