The LA Galaxy kicked off the MLS season on Friday night with a 2-0 drubbing of the Chicago Fire. The defending champs picked up right where they left off but the excitement will really peak tonight when Orlando SC hosts NYCFC. These two are both playing in their first ever MLS game and the hype surrounding each of them is incredible. Despite them being new to the league, they should both be in contention for the playoffs and even the MLS Cup. Through the expansion draft, Orlando and NYCFC have a solid amount of young talent mixed with some wily veterans. Each team has their own superstar. Here are the keys to this expansion showdown.
First and foremost, this is going to be an electric atmosphere. Orlando sold out tickets for this game with an estimated 60,000 fans expected to be in attendance. Most MLS stadiums are lucky to draw half that many people. It will definitely be an advantage for Orlando to have the home field advantage. For a team as young as NYCFC is, that will be a difficult challenge to overcome.
Then there are the two superstars playing in this match. For Orlando, the former Brazilian international will be running the show. On the New York side, former Spanish superstar David Villa will be the talisman. The two each had a long, illustrious careers at the domestic level in Europe. They even faced off a handful of times when Kaka donned a Real Madrid shirt and Villa suited up for FC Barcelona. Each will leave his mark on this game one way or another. They are easily the best players for their respective clubs, and that will show.
This game will likely be a little sloppy at first as it is the first meaningful game of the year. I expect the first thirty minutes to be full of mistakes and missed opportunity as each team attempts to shake of the rust and deal with nerves. After that, look for the pace to slow down a little as both clubs find a bit of a rhythm and play for possession. It will be evident that none of these guys have played with each other for more than a few months but each team has some top talent. The ball will often run through Mix Diskerud and Ned Grabavoy for NYC. Kaka and Okungo will do the majority of the heavy lifting for Orlando. The defense for both sides is a little uncertain so look for some goals in this one.
Throw out whatever you saw during the previous preseasons matchup between these squads. It has no bearing on this game and the emotion alone will ensure that. This one will be hotly contested and sure to produce a few goals. However, Orlando will claim the title of better expansion team in round one with an eventual 2-1 victory. Tune in to ESPN2 to catch MLS history being made.