Last week, Adrian Heath called it "the biggest of the week of the season." Orlando City was short-handed, having just 15 players available in a match with FC Dallas, but Heath still held out hope for six points over two matches.
"If we could take six points in the next two home games, I think it would be huge for us," Heath said at the time. "I think this is probably the most important week of the season for us. It would have been great if we had everybody fit but unfortunately we haven't so we've got to get on with it."
That hope is gone now, as Orlando City dropped a 2-0 loss to FC Dallas, and now the Lions hope to salvage three points tonight with a win over a New York Red Bulls side that is just two points ahead in the table.
But, one thing going for Orlando City is they finally have some players available.
For one, Kaká, the star Brazilian midfielder, is back on the pitch after serving his one-game suspension for a red card. He played in the friendly against West Bromwich Albion Wednesday night and scored a goal as Orlando City looked as good as it has all season in a 3-1 win over the English Premier League side.
Joining Kaká in the friendly was Bryan Rochez, who played surprisingly well for a player most thought would be unfit for a match so soon since returning from New Zealand after his visa fiasco. He too found the back of the net against West Brom. Rochez likely won't start the match because it's unlikely he can hold form for 90+ minutes, but he could be someone Heath turns to off the bench late.
Darwin Ceren and Cyle Larin are each back with the team after returning from international play. Larin had been enjoying a stellar run of form before leaving for the Gold Cup, and despite his miss on goal that went viral, he continued to prove his worth even on the international stage. .
Martin Paterson was back in training last week, and will continue to rehab from a knee injury. There is no date set for when he will be in the lineup, but with him training in full, the news lends itself to him being available sooner rather than later.
Suddenly, with Paterson, Larin, Rochez and Ribeiro, among others, being options up top soon, the forward positions are looking a little bit crowded rather than down to the bare bones like they were a week ago.
The back line received some reinforcements as well when Orlando City traded for Corey Ashe from the Houston Dynamo earlier this week. Ashe will likely immediately step in at left back today for the suspended Luke Boden.
All of the returns come at a time when Orlando City is hoping to get on a run to close out the season and get into the playoffs for the Eastern Conference in its inaugural season. The injuries and other factors have mounted all season, and despite playing its 20th game of the inaugural MLS campaign tonight, we still don't know what this Orlando City team can look like when running on all cylinders.
If it resembles anything close to the patchwork squad they put on the field Wednesday night, the other teams in the east could be looking at a dangerous team heading towards the playoffs.
That is, unless, you know, more injuries happen.