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Orlando City Has Turned it Around at Home Since the Struggles of the Early Season

Orlando City has not lost a match at the Citrus Bowl since April. After a rough start to the season, the Lions have turned their stadium into a fortress in recent months and they'll look to extend their home unbeaten streak vs. FC Dallas.

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

As I walked out of the Citrus Bowl on April 3 alongside 32,821 other disappointed fans, just moments after a second straight gut-wrenching home loss for Orlando City, I began to wonder if the Lions would ever break through for their first top flight home victory.

That evening was spoiled in the 91st minute, after Luis Silva put a 25-yard free kick into the back of Donovan Ricketts' net to steal a 1-0 win for D.C. United, which was eerily reminiscent of the Lions' previous home loss to Vancouver Whitecaps, in which a 96th-minute Octavio Rivero header handed Orlando an equally painful 1-0 defeat.

Of course, Orlando would get off the schneid at home eventually, but it didn't always seem like it early on, and the 2-0 loss to Jozy Altidore and Toronto FC in the next home match on April 26 didn't do much to boost morale.

In their first four matches at The Bowl, which drew over 157,000 combined fans, the Lions came away with a draw followed by three consecutive losses. The home atmosphere was raucous, but the results were not coming.

That all seems like a long time ago now, however.

Following the loss to TFC, Orlando has put together a seven-match unbeaten streak at home in all competitions, starting with their friendly against Brazilian side Ponte Preta. Since then, City has rallied for a 5-0-2 record at the Citrus Bowl in the last two and a half months, including a 3-0-2 mark in league competition.

In OCSC's last five home MLS matches, they've rallied for a 2-2 draw against New England, routed the LA Galaxy in a cathartic 4-0 victory, scored a late goal to tie Columbus Crew SC 2-2, got revenge on D.C. with a 1-0 win, and put on a clinic in a 2-0 win over Colorado. The difference in results has been due more to the form of the squad than to the fans, who have continued to come out in droves, and trail only Seattle in average league attendance.

In the current unbeaten run, City is averaging 2.28 goals per game, while surrendering just 0.87 per game. The Lions have maintained four clean sheets in those seven outings, all of which have come since the return of Tally Hall in goal. Contrast those numbers to the first four home matches of 2015, where the Lions managed just 0.75 goals per contest and claimed only one clean sheet.

Orlando City will welcome FC Dallas tonight as winners of three straight at home, and despite playing without Kaká, Darwin Cerén and Cyle Larin, among others, the Lions will look to secure a crucial three points in the escalating Eastern Conference playoff race.

Although the Lions will be missing several key pieces tonight, they will have a chance to win their fourth consecutive home match in their friendly confines, surrounded by purple-clad fans and with heat waves rising off the turf after a 97-degree day in the Central Florida sun. Win or lose, Orlando has come a long way since its last home loss on April 26, and the Citrus Bowl has proven itself as a formidable venue for visiting teams.

If FC Dallas does escape Orlando with three points tonight, you now know who to direct your blame at for providing the jinx.