Finally, Major League Soccer is back.
United kick off their 23rd campaign in Orlando on Saturday, taking on Orlando City SC at 7:30 PM with pregame coverage starting at 7 on NewsChannel 8. After three straight wins to end preseason, the Black-and-Red are determined to carry their positive progress into the regular season as they fight for three points, the club's first-ever win at Orlando City Stadium, and first win in Orlando since 2015.
With both sides making numerous offseason moves, Saturday's game will likely feature two new-look lineups compared to when the teams last met in the District in September. In their prior matchup, Orlando snapped United's three-match shutout streak thanks to two early goals. The Black-and-Red rallied in the final 45 minutes and pulled within one after a Kofi Opare header in the game's closing moments, but time expired before the home side found a chance to equalize.
This Saturday, United and Orlando will each enter matchday with new playmakers in their arsenals, though. The Black-and-Red are hoping their most recent acquisition, Argentine Yamil Asad, has had enough time with the team to settle in and quickly become an impact player in the midfield just as he was in Atlanta. Up top, offseason signing Darren Mattocks will look to build on the success he found in preseason, during which he netted three goals and added an assist through four friendlies. New goalkeeper David Ousted and defenders Oniel Fisher and Frédéric Brillant will also be available to boost the back line, while Ulises Segura and Júnior Moreno give the coaching staff added pieces up the midfield's spine.
United and Orlando will each miss options in their first game due to suspensions and injuries. The Black-and-Red will open the season without Luciano Acosta (suspension), Russell Canouse (injury), and Taylor Kemp (injury). For the Lions, go-to striker Dom Dwyer (injury) and new addition Sacha Kljestan (suspension) will be unavailable for Saturday's action.
While Kljestan won't be on hand to make his debut in his new home stadium, Justin Meram will be. The former Columbus Crew midfielder gives the Lions a dangerous option on the attack—Meram scored 13 times and tallied seven assists last year in Columbus. Meram brings an added dimension to the Lions lineup and will be tasked with stepping up in Dwyer's absence, but with United's revamped midfield standing in his way, Saturday will give both sides a valuable test on both sides of the ball early in the season.