Orlando City's trip up north to Canada on March 28 marked only the fourth game for the team's inaugural MLS season. Now, 12 games later, the Lions once again travel to Montreal to take on the Impact. In the course of those 11 games in between, Orlando has gone through a growing process as a team. There have been good times and bad, but now, riding a five-game unbeaten streak, the team looks to carry some momentum against a tough Eastern Conference opponent.
Yesterday, we wrote about what the team learned from their first visit into French Canada, but there are three big factors that will have changed since that game almost three months ago.
The first game the Lions played up in Montreal was held in Stade Olympique, aka Olympic Stadium, which is an indoor, 40-year-old former Olympic games location, turned baseball stadium, turned soccer stadium. It also features a well-combed carpet, I mean artificial turf, that usually doesn't make players too happy to play on.
This time, the game will be held at Stade Saputo, the normal home of the Impact, which is outdoors, with a full grass field. This should make for a much better and faster paced game. It's also another example of soccer specific stadiums around MLS, which are slowly becoming the norm after 20 years of playing in football and baseball stadiums. Hopefully, at this time next year, Orlando will be playing in their own SSS.
The biggest note on Orlando's 2-2 draw with Montreal last time was all of the missing players for the Lions. Orlando had seven players missing due to international games and injuries, and the team was forced to send a slimmed-down 14 man team up north.
This time around, all the players who have missed games over the last two weeks will be back and ready to play. Darwin Cerén, who has been a revelation in Orlando's defensive midfield, and Cyle Larin, the rookie goal-scoring sensation, will be back with the team and possibly in the starting 11. Brek Shea and Rafael Ramos also missed the last game against the Impact and both of them will look to be influential on the game tonight.
In the last three months or so, Orlando City has been trying to find its identity in MLS. With a 5-5-5 record, there is still a long road ahead in terms of solidifying that identity. However, the team has had a good run of late. They have been scoring goals, having fewer mental lapses than before and, possibly most importantly, not giving away late goals in the 90th minute. City seems to have a bit of a different identity since the last time these two teams met, which gives the Lions an advantage.
With all of this factored in, it makes a convincing argument for an Orlando City win tonight. All the team has to do is ride the wave of their current unbeaten run and let the good times come with it.