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Impact vs Orlando City SC : Q & A with The Mane Land

The Impact travel to the Sunshine state this weekend looking for their first victory since April 16.

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

The Montreal Impact travel to Orlando City SC this weekend looking to regain first place in the MLS Eastern Conference. The Impact have not won a game since their last minute winner against the Chicago Fire on April 16th. Montreal is coming off a tightly played match last Saturday against the Philadelphia Unionwhich ended in a 1-1 draw.

Orlando City is currently stuck below the playoff line in the Eastern Conference but still pose a danger to the Impact. Montreal will have to watch out for Brazilian Kaka and a seemingly rejuvenated (and former Toronto FC) keeper in Joe Bendik. The Montreal Impact will be without striker Didier Drogba, who has returned to London for a couple days, and central defender Victor Cabrera.

Mount Royal Soccer has turned towards our friends at The Mane Land in order to get some perspective on Orlando City SC.

1. What are your thoughts on how Orlando have begun the 2016 season? Are supporters content with how things have started?
I think everyone was thrilled after the first four matches, but since that time the team has spiraled into a 0-3-3 skid and that goodwill has dried up. Orlando has been very poor defensively, allowing 25+ shots on two occasions during that slide. The supporters are still behind the team but there have been louder and louder calls for changes in the lineup, formation, and even some calling for the Head Coach Adrian Heath's job. 

With that said, it's nothing that a winning streak couldn't fix. It's a lot easier to take coachspeak when the team is successful than when the team looks bad every week. With three matches coming in a nine-day stretch, Orlando can either climb back into the race or get left on the side of the road.


2. Who is the one player that has been a pleasant surprise on the Orlando roster this season? How can this player change and impact the match on Saturday night?
This has to be Joe Bendik. Goalkeeper Tally Hall was a very popular player last season and a lot of people were upset when the club let him go in the off-season. The signing of Bendik, a former Toronto FC stopper, did not impress the fan base. And, to be honest, we weren't sure if Bendik was coming in as a starter or if he would have to beat out second-year keeper Earl Edwards Jr., who the coaching staff is very high on. 

Bendik took a couple of games to settle in but has been outstanding in the net for Orlando City. He's made saves that have kept this team in games and he helped the Lions steal all three points at New York City FC. He's up for MLS Save of the Week almost every week. I'm not sure any of us knew how good Bendik could be. He's fully capable of making a couple of game-changing saves and that might be what Orlando City's leaky defense will need on Saturday.

3. Soccer fans in Canada are always curious to know more about Cyle Larin. Can Larin repeat his success from 2015? What makes him such a dangerous striker?
Larin began the season right where he left off, scoring in each of the team's first three matches. Now he's on four goals with a couple of assists and he is certainly capable of not only repeating last year's success, but even surpassing it. Adrian Heath says he is more than capable of scoring 20 goals this year and he has said if Larin plays to his capability and stays healthy he should absolutely surpass that number. 

What makes Larin so dangerous is that he's got everything. He's faster than he looks and usually gets to a spot before his defender. He's strong enough to hold off physical center backs and maintain his balance long enough to get off a quality shot. He's quick enough in tight spaces to get his boot to the ball in traffic, or turn unexpectedly to beat his defender. Now he's getting a little better at finding his teammates in the box when he's cut off or forced wide, and he's improving his hold-up play, allowing his midfielders to come forward and get involved in the attack. He's really the whole package and he's only getting better. 

Starting XI Prediction:
This is going to probably make me look bad because Adrian Heath promised to make changes after a dismal showing at Sporting Kansas City last Sunday. Without knowing specifically what he's looking to change, He could go back to a 4-3-2-1 or 4-3-3. I'll just project what we're used to seeing:

(4-2-3-1) Joe Bendik; Brek Shea, Tommy Redding (although Seb Hines is now healthy enough to start if Heath chooses to play him), David Mateos, Rafael Ramos; Servando Carrasco, Cristian Higuita; Antonio Nocerino, Kaká, Kevin Molino; Cyle Larin. 

*A big thank you to Michael at The Mane Land for taking the time to contribute to this article.