Next For the U | Orlando City on Saturday night

The Eastern Conference has been dominated by the two New York teams, Philly, and Montreal all season. But lurking just below these four leaders is the mercurial Orlando City SC, a club with high-end talent and speed but a maddening lack of consistency that has seen them unable to climb into the conference’s upper echelon.

Recently, Orlando has tightened up their defensive lines with one or fewer goals allowed in five of their past six games, but that sixth game was a doozy. On July 4 against a struggling DC side, they gave up five goals. Five weeks earlier, they shipped three to Dallas, and barely a month before that they watched Montreal pump four past them. In between these troubling performances, Oscar Pareja’s side gave up more than one goal just one time, in a 2-2 draw with Austin.

For the Union, who have seen their stellar defense ensure that two goals is enough for a win this year, keeping the attack rolling in the muggy Orlando heat will likely be the difference between three points and any other outcome.

Jim Curtin will likely be able to call on his full roster of strikers, but after Jack McGlynn’s strong showing in a double pivot, he also has the option of continuing in the 4-2-3-1 used last weekend in the win over New England. That shape was driven both by personnel and by an acknowledgment that the Revs generate a lot of offense through crosses.

Orlando is less reliant on crosses than Bruce Arena’s team, instead working through standout playmaker Mauricio Pereyra in the middle.

Pereyra typically has big striker Ercan Kara in front of him and Facundo Torres running off the wing. Ruan will also fly up from his fullback position to add additional width, and watching him and Kai Wagner compete to push the other deep will be a fun tactical battle to follow.

Philly’s big defensive question comes in the heart of the back line, where Jack Elliott is slated to return from injury. If the stalwart doesn’t recover in time for Saturday’s match, Brandan Craig is the only other center back available on the roster.

This is not to say Curtin doesn’t have options, though. Cole Turner can drop into defense or Wagner can slide inside and allow Leon Flach or Matt Real to take over the fullback role.

The Union face off against Orlando City SC live on PHL17 and at 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 23.