Dean Smith will hope to utilise the experience of former Orlando City midfielder Junior Orso when his new team Charlotte FC host them in MLS on Thursday.

Charlotte head coach Smith says the influence of Orso, who spent four seasons with Orlando, could benefit the home side at Bank of America Stadium.

"It helps," Smith said of Orso's knowledge. "Little insights of information that can help.

"The fact that Junior will know a lot about them will certainly help us as well."

The Crown are fifth in the Eastern Conference standings, too, owing to their remarkable defence that has helped them to ninth in the Supporter's Shield rankings.

"Defense wins championships,” said Brandt Bronico, reflecting on the team's success this season. "If you can get the defense right, you can [then] start creating and having fun on the offensive end.

"The collective defense-first mindset is probably the most important thing in the locker room."

Orlando are struggling at the bottom of the Eastern Conference table, sitting just one point ahead of New England Revolution, who still have a game in hand.

Oscar Pareja's side were beaten 3-1 by Los Angeles FC last time out, extending their winless streak to four games.

The Orlando head coach acknowledged improvements are needed.

"We need to have a deeper analysis about what's happening on the pitch," Pareja said.

"But once again, it's not enough at this point. We need to win games and that's not happening."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Charlotte FC – Kristijan Kahlina

Charlotte have kept clean sheets in five straight home matches for the first time in club history, thanks to the efforts of goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina.

With a shutout against Orlando, Charlotte would become the sixth team in MLS history to keep six straight home clean sheets within a single season, equaling the second-longest run in league history.

Orlando City – Nicolas Lodeiro

Nicolas Lodeiro completed 107 of 115 pass attempts on Saturday against LAFC, a new career high in his 208th regular-season match after never completing more than 88 passes in a match before.

It was the most passes ever completed by an Orlando player in an MLS match, though Lodeiro may not have as much control for this meeting.

MATCH PREDICTION – CHARLOTTE FC WIN

The pre-match predictions fall in the favour of the home side as Charlotte appear the most likely victors on Thursday.

Charlotte FC went unbeaten in all three meetings with Orlando in all competitions last season (W2 D1), after Orlando won both matches in 2022.

Expect another nervy encounter, however, as all five matches between this pair have been decided by one goal or drawn.

Yet the hosts will be confident as Charlotte have lost only one of their last 19 regular-season home matches, dating back to the beginning of June 2023 (W9 D9).

Only last season's MLS Cup finalists Los Angeles FC (40) and Columbus Crew (38) have earned more points at home than Charlotte (36) over that span, and Orlando are struggling heading into this one.

The visitors have lost eight matches in the 2024 season, one more than they had all of last year.

Yet not all hope is lost given the Lions have lost only one of their last six away from home (W3 D2).

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Charlotte FC – 42.8%

Orlando City – 30.5%

Draw – 26.7%