Orlando City just faced the toughest test they'll likely face all year and impressed. Heading into this three-game, 10-day stretch, many would've considered two points a success. But after Sunday night's dominating win over the LA Galaxy, the Lions captured four points from three of the best teams in MLS.
Over the past 10 days, Orlando City has had the roughest stretch of games they have faced in their five-year existence. The New England Revolution are the defending Eastern Conference champions and visited Orlando with a healthy Jermaine Jones. Just five days later, the Lions took to the road to face a D.C. United team that currently leads the East, after finishing last regular season on top of the conference. They finished the stretch by returning home to face the defending MLS Cup winners.
As if it wasn't difficult enough playing arguably the three best teams in the league, all were played within 10 days. While most teams would prefer a week to recover from their previous game and prepare for their upcoming opponent, Orlando City had five and four days to prepare for some of the best teams the league has to offer. Add in that they're in the middle of an expansion year and coming away with several points seemed to be almost an impossible task.
The Lions this past week showed a tremendous amount of resilience. Last Friday night, trailing by two, the team never gave up and fought back with two goals in the final 15 minutes to secure a draw against the defending conference champions. Then, following a tough defeat in the nation's capital, they took three points in what was probably the most impressive result in club history. After trailing by two against the Revs and losing a tough game in D.C., the team could've given up, but instead fought back for their most impressive performance of the season.
In addition to what could potentially be a turning point in the season, there are several other positives to take away from the past 11 days. Rookie Cyle Larin scored in each of the three games, as he continues to improve in his rookie year. The fact that Larin scored three times in this stretch of games was a huge step forward for the 20-year-old.
Even more important, forward Martin Paterson and goalkeeper Tally Hall are finally healthy and have returned to the field. The 28-year-old Paterson has a history of scoring in England and was brought over specifically to allow City's young strikers to learn without being thrown into the fire. Meanwhile, while Donovan Ricketts had his moments, he was prone to at least one big mistake a game. Hall is one of the league's best goalkeepers and will be a tremendous asset for the team going forward.
With the toughest three games the Lions will face this season behind them, they look forward to what will be a much easier run of games. It starts next Sunday night in San Jose where the Lions will take on the Earthquakes in the 68,500 seat Levi's Stadium.
While there are tough match-ups on the horizon, as there always will be (including a rematch with Columbus looming), there are nowhere near the stretch of games the Lions have just faced. Future strong opponents are separated by a much easier opponent on the remaining schedule.
The Lions won't play another midweek game until late June, after which they'll have 10 days off rather than playing four days later, as they just have. After these past three games, Orlando City will be riding high on what they've accomplished and will take that momentum into the remainder of the season.