This is it, Orlando. A massive match with surefire playoff implications comes to the Citrus Bowl Saturday night when the sixth-seeded Montreal Impact visit our seventh-seeded Lions. The last time Orlando City squared up with Impact, the result was a two-goal loss to end our memorable five-game unbeaten run over the summer.
It was a tough game to stomach, but we learned some of their strengths, some of their weaknesses and what can be done heading into -- arguably -- the most tense circumstances of the season.
Own Your Defensive Third
When these two clubs met in June, Montreal came out aggressively and eager to attack the box. Aurélien Collin responded the way Aurélien Collin does by becoming a one-man wrecking crew along the back line -- but, therein lies the problem.
He's one man.
Check out this corner kick that broke the ice for Montreal.
Did you hear what the broadcaster just said? "This is their fifth corner." It's the 35th minute!
The back four combined in this match for seven tackles and six clearances. They will need to do a better job being aggressive on the ball when Montreal presses forward. Look for David Mateos, who had yet to make his MLS debut, to be a big factor in setting the tone in that third, provided he's healthy enough to return to the lineup. He did train with the team this week, so that's a good sign.
Attack with Physicality
Montreal's stud center back Laurent Ciman was vicious in this match, matching the Orlando City back line with seven tackles on his own. He's shown how good he can be in recent matches against Columbus and New England, but he's also been making a habit of getting tossed, seeing red three times since the calendar read August.
Ciman is tough, but Larin is no pushover. Kid Fantastic needs to use that 6-foot-2, 190-pound frame to let the defender know he's there. Be physical. Demand position. Hell, tell him his mama's so ugly she made One Direction turn around.
Any means necessary.
Be Tough on the Left
The Impact preferred their build-up on the right side, featuring some classy two-man game from Marco Donadel and Andrés Romero. Donadel was a particularly effective play-maker, connecting on six crosses, five long passes and feeding Romero in all the right spots in between.
Romero did his part on the ball, working five dribbles to fire six shots to keep City's defense working throughout the match. These two led the team in offensive touches, combining for 143 total as the offense continually bled through them.
Whether we see the Killer B's in the lineup again, or an appearance from the pacey Carlos Rivas, the left side of Inchy's formation needs to get tough with these two early and often.