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DC United vs Orlando City SC Game Preview

The Managers: 

DC United - Troy Lesesne: 

The 40-year-old American Head Coach has stepped into his role with DC United, truly making the position his in a relatively short period of time. The United position is his first permanent position as an MLS head coach. His journey includes prior managerial experience with New Mexico United in the USL Championship, where he honed his coaching skills over three years. Lesesne then transitioned to the MLS, serving as an assistant manager with the New York Red Bulls before taking on the interim head coach role during most of the previous season after parting ways with Gerhard Struber.

Lesesne’s tactical approach and player-centric management style have swiftly resonated with DC United players and fans. His coaching philosophy is predicated on two key factors: strategic use of high-pressing intensity and quick turnovers leading to attacking intent.

Lesesne’s hallmark is a strategically applied high-pressing game. Drawing inspiration from the Red Bull philosophy, but not replicating it fully, he encourages his players to apply pressure on opponents at opportune times. DC United currently leads MLS in challenge intensity and passes allowed per defensive action (PPDA). Their pressing actions are concentrated in a narrow 4-1-3-2 shape, aiming to overload the midfield or force wide passes from the center-backs to the full-backs.

Lesesne also encourages his side to focus on regaining possession swiftly and launching attacks within seconds of losing the ball. Their 72 high regains this season have led to 31 dangerous recoveries, resulting in rapid shots after winning the ball. The goal is to play forward, create scoring opportunities, and keep the opposition on their toes. 

The first seven games should have DC United fans anticipating an exciting era of fun soccer, fueled by pressing intensity and attacking flair under Troy Lesene.

Orlando City SC - Oscar Pareja 

In his fifth season as Head Coach of Orlando City, Óscar Pareja has brought a great deal of success to the Lion’s of Orlando. Since his hiring in December of 2019, Orlando City have finished no lower than seventh in the Eastern Conference, and have participated in the playoffs for four straight seasons. They have also enjoyed some tournament successes with a second-place finish in the MLS Is Back Tournament and winning the 2022 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title.

Pareja’s success is based on a solid tactical approach. He’s known for meticulously designing game plans that suit his team’s strengths. He has also shown the ability to adapt during matches and the awareness to make strategic substitutions in crucial moments. Pareja also has an uncanny knack for identifying his player’s individual potential. His approach often maximizes the performance of his players within the team’s system, resulting in consistent success on the field. This is why, despite Orlando’s disappointing start to the season, people expect it to be near the top of the table at the end of the season.


It’s Cherry Blossom Night at Audi Field as the Black & Red take on Orlando City SC in a key Eastern Conference matchup. 

The Black & Red are riding a two-game unbeaten streak. They secured a home victory against CF Montreal on March 30 and played the 2023 MLS Cup Champions to a 1-1 draw in Columbus last weekend. In both matches, DC United controlled the game with their defensive intensity. Head Coach Lesesne’s new high-octane pressing style has made the Black & Red to be a team to take seriously. Expect a team to be eager to extend their unbeaten run in front of the home crowd.

On the side Orlando City SC have struggled on the road, losing their last three away matches and conceding a whopping 11 goals in the process. Their potent attack from 2023 has sputtered, and the backline has started to leak goals at an unusual rate.

If United can play like they did in the season opener, it should be a victory for the home team.

Keys to the Match: 

Who steps up for Ted Ku-DiPietro? 

With Ted Ku-DiPietro sidelined due to an hip injury, DC United will need another player to step up in his absence. Ku-DiPietro, who has displayed glimpses of taking it to another level, has unfortunately been in and out of the starting eleven this season due to injuries. His unique ability to break lines with the ball at his feet and cover a lot of ground in the midfield has been valuable for the Black & Red. However, with him unavailable, the team will have to rely on other options.

One potential candidate to fill Ku-DiPietro’s shoes should be Gabriel Pirani, the young Brazilian midfielder has versatility and dynamic playing style that should provide United with the necessary creativity to help the attack. Unfortunately Pirani has often been invisible on the field for long moments of games.

A second option would be keeping Jackson Hopkins in the starting lineup while returning Matti Peltola. Last week Hopkins started at the six and Peltola came off the bench. Returning Peltola to the six would allow Hopkins to move to his more natural eight position. This would mean United would play with two eights, allowing Mateusz Klich more freedom going forward.

Additionally, an outside option would be Martin Rodriguez, who might get an opportunity to showcase his skills and contribute to the team’s performance.

While Ku-DiPietro’s absence is a setback, it also presents a chance for other United players to prove their worth and make a difference on the field. DC United will need a collective effort from the entire team to overcome this challenge and secure a positive result against Orlando City SC.

Can DC United keep Orlando City down? The Black and Red will look to keep the form they showed in Columbus. That performance has continued to have the Black & Red be one of the surprising teams in the early MLS season. On the other hand the 2024 season has been a disappointing one for Orlando City. After a remarkable 2023 campaign that saw the Lions finish second in the overall standings, expectations were high. However, the reality has been far from ideal.

Orlando City’s attack has been anemic. In their first six games of the season, Orlando has managed just one win. The team’s offense ranks fourth-worst in the league, with a mere five goals scored during that span. To make matters worse, they’ve gone three games without finding the back of the net.

Fortunately for Orlando fans, the team had a bye last week for Coach Oscar Pareja to figure out how to reignite the Lions’ offensive spark. He has talented players to work with, Duncan McGuire has contributed two goals, while Nicolas Lodeiro and Jack Lynn have each added one, and the team’s designated players, Facundo Torres, Martin Ojeda, and Luis Muriel have all shown offensive skills in season’s past.

For United to get their third home win, the Black & Red will need to show the same defensive tenacity they have shown the past two weeks. If they can, the doubts that have been growing within the psyche of Orlando City players will work in United’s favor.

Things to Watch: 

Offense - The offense will continue to run through Christian Benteke. His hold up play  on long passes is unsurpassed in MLS, and his ability to link up with teammates has been a key ingredient to DC United’s attack this season. What makes this season different than last is that Lesesne has designed an offense that gets Benteke into better scoring positions. When you add Benteke’s finishing to this mix, DC consistently has a scoring threat. Benteke gives DC the ability to go long, and get the ball out from their half of the field. Even when Benteke doesn’t score, his presence forces the defense to pay attention, and can lead to opportunities for others like Mateusz Klich and Cristian Dajome.

The loss of Ted Ku-DiPietro to a knock is a blow, as he’s been such a dynamic threat with the ball and been able to transition the team from defense to offense with line-breaking dribbles. Without KDP in Cincinnati,  Mateusz Klich was more willing to play forward and take shots on goal. With the return of Benteke, there should be even better opportunities for Klich to shoot on goal.

It’s not yet known which player will step up and fill the role Ted KDP plays for United. Pirani technically should be that player, but his play on the field has been forgettable so far this season. The Black & Red could really use Pirani to play to his potential.

Look for the bulk of United’s attack to come from the right side of the field with Jerrod Stroud, and  Aaron Herrera becoming a highly effective offensive partnership. Both have repeatedly demonstrated his ability to cross the ball and provide scoring opportunities.

The other player who has the opportunity to step up is Jackson Hopkins. The young Homegrown has had a decent start to the season, but could use this opportunity to make his mark. Hopkins has the confidence to shoot, which he demonstrated in Columbus with the long range shot that struck the post. If Hopkins can clean up his passing and off-ball movement, he could really push to continue starting.

Off the bench, United will have its young guns in Kristen Fletcher and Jacob Murrell. Both have shown that they have some of the smoother shots on the team, and given half a chance will shoot with confidence.

Defense - Troy Lesesne has decided to start a combination of Conor Antley and Christian Dajome on the left side of the formation. While the offensive production from this choice has been minimal, the defensive contribution has been outstanding. Conor Antley’s ability to play both as a Center Back and a Fullback gives Lesesne flexibility in how United sets up and how it changes depending on the game situation. Nominally, Antley is the Left Back in a back four defensive line, but at times, when United is on the attack, Antley hangs back as a third Center Back, and Dajome and Herrera push up as Wingbacks. 

Both Conor Antley and Christian Dajome have been revelations on the defensive side of the ball. Christian Dajome has bought into the system and uses his speed to disrupt opponents trying bring the ball up on their right. Dajome has also shown he has a knack for stealing the ball, and is willing to put a foot in. 

United is improved this season, in large part because Troy Lesesne has found ways to utilize the strengths of his players and put them in situations to succeed. If the Black & Red play like they have shown they are capable of, then United should earn their third win of the season.

By the Numbers:

DC United

  • DC United are currently 8th in the Eastern Conference, tied on 10 points with 2 other teams.

  • DC United has 10 goals, for at 1.43 per match

  • DC United has conceded 9 goals 

  • DC United has a +1 goal differential

  • Christian Benteke has 5 goals and 1 assist 

  • Pedro Santos has 1 goal and 1 assist

  • Mateusz Klich has 1 goal

  • Aaron Herrera has zero goals, but has 2 assists

  • Alex Bono has 2 clean sheets and 24 saves on the season 

Orlando City SC

  • Orlando City SC are currently 14th in the Eastern Conference

  • With five goals in 6 matches, Orlando City SC ranks 27th in MLS.

  • Orlando City SC ranks 27th in goal differential.

  • Orlando City SC’s Duncan McGuire has scored two goals this season.

  • Dagur Dan Thorhallsson has not scored a goal this season, but he does have one assist.

  • Rafael Lucas Cardoso Dos Santos has no goals, but he has one assist.

  • Jack Lynn has scored one goal but has no assists.


Richard - 2-0 DC. DC United are playing well while Orlando City are not. The Black & Red will exploit this to pick up their third win of the season.

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