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

Real Salt Lake v Orlando City SC Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images

The Montreal Impact will be looking to build off their famous 1-0 victory against Toronto FC almost ten days ago now when they take on Orlando City SC this Wednesday night at Stade Saputo. Orlando will be hungry for a win as they are in the middle of a tight playoff race with D.C. United.

The only other meeting between these two teams took place this season in May. On that evening Montreal was unable to get anything from the match after an early Ignacio Piatti goal. The Impact went on to lose that match 2-1 while Drogba was in England receiving treatment and visiting family. There is a good chance that Drogba will also miss out on Orlando’s visit to Montreal on Wednesday due to a nagging injury.

Mount Royal Soccer has turned to our friends at The Mane Land to get some insight on the upcoming match:

Mount Royal Soccer: Supporters of the Canadian Men's National Team are always interested in hearing about Cyle Larin. I feel like we hear less about him in 2016. How has he performed this season in MLS, and what are his strengths and weaknesses?

The Mane Land: Cyle has performed quite well in his sophomore season and is on pace to match his record rookie goal-scoring streak set last season. His tireless work often goes unnoticed in games in which he doesn't get much service. He strengths are his size, deceptive speed, and strength, in addition to his nose for goal and ability to attack the ball in the air. His weaknesses aren't as weak as they once were. He's worked hard at improving his hold-up play and it's gotten much better since last season, although there is still room for improvement. And when he's not getting much service up top, he has not yet learned to drop deeper to get involved in the game the way, say, Jozy Altidore or other veteran strikers will do.

Mount Royal Soccer: Orlando are in the thick of the fight for the final playoff position going into the last few months of the season. Do you believe Orlando can qualify for the playoffs and what will they need to do to make that a reality?

The Lions can qualify but it isn't going to be easy. Orlando City has not won on the road since its first away trip of the season at New York City FC. With every point being precious and D.C. United starting to play better, the Lions will need to get some road results and win at home. The two games against DC will be exceedingly important in Orlando's playoff push.

If Orlando City can tighten up defensively, the Lions can play against anyone. The club has scored goals in 2016 but has struggled to keep teams off the score sheet. The Lions have been poor in defending set pieces in particular, and have conceded goals late in games in which they've led several times. Jason Kreis has worked hard on fixing the defense and if that work pays off, Orlando will be better down the stretch.

Mount Royal Soccer: Which Orlando City players will the Montreal Impact need to keep an extra close eye on when these two teams meet next week?

I'd like to say Larin and Kevin Molino, but both play in World Cup qualifiers the night before Orlando City visits Montreal. Of course there's always Kaká, who pulls the strings in the attack. The Brazilian struggled with injuries early in the season but has returned to form. In Orlando's last game against NYCFC he had a vintage moment when he simply determined he was going to score, and did, rounding Jefferson Mena like he was a traffic cone and powering a shot on target. When Josh Saunders stopped that, Kaká simply pounced on the loose ball and put it in the net. When he plays with an attitude like that, he's very hard to stop.

New arrival Matias Perez Garcia has brought a new dimension to the attacking midfield since arriving from San Jose. MPG favors the same kind of quick, short passes that Kaká and Molino can play off of around the box. He has yet to score a goal for Orlando but he's getting closer, and even if he isn't scoring himself, he's certainly contributing to others' goals.The Kaká goal I described above would not have happened without MPG. Perez Garcia started the sequence by dispossessing Andrea Pirlo, then immediately making a run up the field. Antonio Nocerino fed him the ball and MPG held it until the captain joined the attack. He then led Kaká into open space with a key pass and the Brazilian did the rest. If MPG can find space against the Montreal defense, the Lions will get scoring opportunities.

Mount Royal Soccer: Any suspensions, international absences, injuries that may keep players out, and predictions for a starting lineup and final score?

As mentioned above, Larin and Molino aren't likely to be back, which will hurt Orlando City's chances in this game. Larin doesn't have an adequate replacement for 90 minutes, although Julio Baptista can provide some cover in the spot for short spells. Defensive midfielder Cristian Higuita (hamstring) is out and right back Rafael Ramos (right back) and midfielder Pedro Ribeiro (back surgery) are still working their way back after returning to training. Center back Seb Hines (knee) has been in and out of the lineup recently.

This will be a difficult lineup to predict without Larin and Molino, especially since Jason Kreis has not been afraid to make bold lineup choices. We may see a shape change in this game. I'll stress that this is an educated guess:

Joe Bendik; Luke Boden, David Mateos, Jose Aja, Kevin Alston; Antonio Nocerino, Servando Carrasco; Kaká, Matias Perez Garcia, Brek Shea; Julio Baptista.

Because Orlando hasn't won on the road in forever, and will be missing two key offensive components, I'll say Montreal takes this one, 2-1. And I will hold you personally responsible, John.