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New York City FC are back in the Bronx this weekend to take on Orlando City SC

For this edition of 'The Away End' presented by Berkeley College & Rennert International, we spoke to Michael Citro, the founder and managing editor of The Mane Land, a website dedicated to coverage of Orlando City SC and the Orlando Pride.

Hi Michael, thanks so much for speaking with us. What’s been your favorite moment covering the team?

Opening day in 2015 was special. The Citrus Bowl was crammed with more than 60,000 fans and it was the culmination of a long road from the USL to MLS, with Kaká earning the team a point at the death in dramatic fashion.

The first playoff game last year has to be a strong contender too, with the crazy penalty shootout, goalkeeper Pedro Gallese getting sent off, and having to win it with defender Rodrigo Schlegel in the net. The fact that both of those came at the expense of New York City FC is completely coincidental, but it seems like many of Orlando's big moments, such as the Lions' other huge shootout win in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals in 2019, have come against NYCFC.

Looking at the 2021 season so far for Orlando, the team are third in the East. What are your aspirations for this season with the club?

The players and Oscar Pareja repeatedly say the objective is to win trophies. I'm not sure if this year's team is strong enough to get over that hump and capture silverware, but the Lions should compete for them. The team has had some issues with health on the backline this season, and between Daryl Dike's loan and Gold Cup stint and the injury to Alexandre Pato, striker has also been an area of concern. Orlando should be a playoff team and then anything can happen, so we'll just have to see how it plays out.

From a tactical standpoint, what strengths should Ronny Deila and his team be wary of heading into the game?

What Orlando does well when everything is working properly is funneling the opposition's attacks to the wide areas. The Lions are content to let teams try to score via the cross rather than come up the middle. And when Orlando is playing well as a team defensively, the Lions create issues getting those crosses in cleanly.

Are there any weaknesses you think NYCFC can exploit?

The Lions can sometimes overthink things in the attacking third. Just by the nature of the Yankee Stadium pitch size, Orlando has not always had good success putting the ball in the net through the crowd of bodies at NYCFC and that tendency to overthink things can not only cost the Lions scoring chances but also can lead to turnovers in the attacking third that provide the opponent some transition moments when the defense isn't well-positioned to keep the attack out of the middle.

If you were to identify Orlando's danger-man, who would that be?

With Dike on international duty, there are two names that stand out. Nani and Chris Mueller are the Lions' best attacking options and either one can score the goal themselves or set up a teammate with a key pass.

And finally, for any fans thinking of making the trip to Orlando in the future, are there any particular attractions you’d suggest they check out?

Everyone knows about the theme parks here, but I always suggest Gatorland, which is a uniquely Florida experience and a good spot for a family outing. And it doesn't cost the exorbitant prices that you'll drop at Disney World, Universal Studios, or Sea World.

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