September is nearly here and the Lions find themselves sitting on a very thin edge; whether they fight to stay on land or fall to the cold depths of obscurity is tied to each and every game moving forward.
Last week, we looked at the highs and lows of the Lions season, finding ourselves in the worst run of form all year and decided that, while not totally out of reach, the playoffs seem to be a distant goal. The Mane Land, here, will look at Orlando City's remaining schedule and analyze the teams that are above us in the standings in order to assess City's chances of securing the a playoff spot. [Editor's Note: This article and its assessments does not take into account last night's game against the Chicago Fire, due to the lateness in that game's conclusion. All data and assumptions are based on Eastern Conference standings as of Aug. 29 at 10:00 pm.]
Orlando Schedule Rest of the year (home games in bold)
Aug. 29, Chicago
Sept. 5, at New England
Sept. 13, Sporting Kansas City
Sept. 19, at Chicago
Sept. 25, at New York Red Bulls
Oct. 3, Montreal
Oct. 16, New York City
Oct. 25, at Philadelphia
When looking at this schedule, Orlando has a strong chance to end the year on a high note. They are not playing any team in the top two of either conference and the two toughest opponents are Sporting KC and NYRB, both currently sitting at third in their respective conferences. Orlando also has a chance to pick on the bottom half of the Eastern Conference facing Chicago (twice), NYCFC and Philadelphia. The two other matches, against New England and Montreal, are against teams that Orlando is currently chasing in the playoff picture and are featured in this article as teams that Orlando could possibly pass to reach MLS playoffs in its inaugural season.
Eastern Conference as of 10:00 pm Aug. 29
|2||Columbus Crew SC||41||27||1.52||11||8||8||45||44||1||32||12||13||-11|
|3||New York Red Bulls||39||24||1.63||11||7||6||40||28||12||19||11||21||1|
|5||New England Revolution||37||26||1.42||10||9||7||35||36||-1||21||12||14||-13|
|7||New York City FC||28||27||1.04||7||13||7||38||46||-8||26||0||12||-8|
|8||Orlando City SC||28||26||1.08||7||12||7||32||46||-14||17||2||15||-16|
Teams we may be able to catch
Looking at the current standings, Orlando is definitely in a precarious position. Not many teams are within striking distance, as most are too far afield by having too many points to realistically catch or still hold a few games in hand on Orlando. Below are the teams that Orlando still has an opportunity, albeit a slim one, to catch and make the playoffs.
There are few games left that could really play into how Orlando ends the year, and this match-up could definitely be one of those. Sept. 5 at New England is where Orlando has the chance to pull a big swing if they can take three points on the road against the Revolution. This could help turn the tide on the final playoff push or it could push Orlando off the cliff into the abyss of looking forward to next year. Currently the Revs are nine points ahead of Orlando and sit in fifth place in the Eastern Conference. Many would say that may be too far for Orlando to come back from, but with a head-to-head match-up in play, there is definitely an opportunity. New England, on the other hand, does have a game in hand and can lose the game and still feel comfortable.
Toronto may have destroyed Orlando in every way possible this year, yet they are still within striking distance if the Lions end the year on an incredible run and Toronto finds some way to play like Orlando has over the past month. Actually it seems highly implausible with them having the "Italian Superboy" Giovinco on their side, but crazier things have happened. Toronto currently has a game in hand and would only have to play at an extremely mediocre pace to stay in the playoff picture. Let's hope Toronto forgets how to play soccer in the coming months.
As highly improbable as catching Toronto may sound, we may have a better chance with this CONCACAF Champions League darling. There will be a head-to-head match-up in Orlando on Oct. 3 but Montreal will have three extra games to play when Orlando is all said and done. They are also currently tied with Orlando on points and are playing a pretty decent brand of soccer. Remember, Montreal has shown the ability to go on a run against good competition, as they did it earlier in the year. Could that heavy schedule have hurt them in the long run? The next month will tell that tale.
All in all, Orlando still has the ability to catch a few teams and reach the playoffs, the head-to-head matches with New England and Montreal will be some of the most highly contested of the year and at least we get to have one of those at home, with Montreal coming to town on Oct. 3. Toronto may be too good and too far ahead for us to catch them, but there is always a chance. Either way, Orlando will never make the playoffs or even have a fighting chance if they do not start winning matches and getting those precious points every match.