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Orlando City vs. Sporting Kansas City: Match Preview, Starting XIs, Predictions and More

With several players expected back on Sunday, the Lions will look to end their winless streak against Sporting Kansas City. The game will also mark a return to the Citrus Bowl for Orlando City hero Dom Dwyer, but will the Lions be able to spoil his homecoming?

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

A six-game winless streak; 533 minutes without scoring a goal (aside from an Eric Gehrig own-goal). Two points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

For Orlando City SC (7-13-8, 29 points), those numbers tell the story of a team that's fallen apart late in the 2015 season. But in a home match against Sporting Kansas City (11-7-8, 41 points) on Sunday night, the Lions will have a chance to change that narrative and hopefully keep their playoff dreams alive.

The boys from Sporting Park are the only MLS team that Orlando City has yet to face this season, as the match will mark a homecoming of sorts for Kansas City star Dom Dwyer (and others). Dwyer played for the Lions on loan during the club's USL-Pro days, helping lead Orlando to a championship in 2013.

Orlando City could be without Kaká and Darwin Ceren in this one, both of whom sustained injuries while on international duty, but should get Cyle Larin, Carlos Rivas and (fingers crossed) Brek Shea back for this pivotal September match.

Let's take a look at the lineups!

Starting XI and Lineups:

Orlando City vs Sporting KC - Football tactics and formations

Orlando City:

Adrian Heath should have enough starters to go with his preferred 4-2-3-1 against Sporting KC on Sunday. It will be a relief for the club to get Cyle Larin back healthy, as even though the Canadian international hasn't been scoring lately (but then again, who has?), his offensive presence alone should be enough to create opportunities for the Lions.

Look for the back line and defensive midfielders to remain unchanged from Saturday's loss to New England, but with Carlos Rivas back from international duty, why not slot him into the central midfielder role usually occupied by Kaká? The Colombian youngster might be the Lions' best chance at finding an offensive spark, and he's certainly a more attractive option in that spot than Lewis Neal.

Luke Boden should start the game at left back after Corey Ashe picked up a knock last week against New England and his status is uncertain. And don't be surprised if Brek Shea makes his return to the pitch as a substitute in the second half of this game. The American international is nearing a return to full strength and could provide the Lions with a huge boost.

Sporting Kansas City:

Sporting KC has just been a fun team to watch in 2015, with two USMNT stars playing behind Dom Dwyer, one of the most electrifying scoring threats in the league.

Dwyer should be in the lineup on Sunday, along with Matt Besler and Graham Zusi, but Orlando is actually catching Kansas City at an ideal time.

The club snapped a three-game winless streak with a 0-0 draw against the Portland Timbers on Wednesday, but is still struggling to regain the solid form it displayed earlier in the season. The defense is banged up and should be drained, playing their third game in only eight days, and having to travel both directions across the country, so perhaps Orlando can (finally) find their offensive mojo in this one.

The Lions will need to slow Dwyer on offense to have a shot against KC, but don't sleep on Benny Feilhaber either. The Brazilian midfielder has scored nine goals for the club this year and could add a few more if Orlando continues to struggle on defense.

Player to Watch...Yes, it's Dom Dwyer

This one's pretty obvious.

Orlando City fans will always have a soft spot for Dwyer after he helped lead the club to a USL-Pro championship back in 2013. But since then, the British striker has gone on to become an MLS fixture.

He's in that small group of players (along with guys like Kei Kamara and Obafemi Martins) who have become marketable MLS stars without playing on the USMNT or coming to the league after long careers in Europe. SKC's leading scorer with nine goals this season, Dom has turned in some remarkable performances in 2015, including a four-goal explosion against FC Dallas in the U.S. Open Cup.

He also got Adrian Heath in trouble, when the Lions manager referred to Orlando as Dwyer's "spiritual home" this season. But after performances like this, you can see why the gaffer would be so attached...

The best part of that whole clip is Heath referring to the final 7-4 scoreline as "more like a basketball score." Clearly, he's been to plenty of Magic games.

But Dwyer has continued that production in MLS, where he burst onto the scene with 22 goals a year ago. While he hasn't matched that blistering pace in 2015, his nine goals have given Sporting a nice cushion as they look to secure a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Here's a glimpse of his handiwork this season...

Orlando City will win if....

Someone scores a goal. Or maybe more. And Cyle Larin and Carlos Rivas give us some reason to hope for the future.

Orlando City's offensive struggles have been their downfall this season, but the Lions will have an opportunity to show what they can do against a Sporting team that's been less than stellar in recent weeks.

The hope is that Larin and Rivas can eventually become the offensive fulcrum of this team, and while we've seen glimpses of that partnership at times this season, they just haven't been together on the field enough to build on those performances. They could have an opportunity against Kansas City, where Rivas and Larin may very well find themselves in the starting XI.

If they can do something (anything!) on offense, the Lions just might be able to collect all three points.

Sporting KC will win if....

Anybody scores a brace or we've got a "basketball score" after 90 minutes (I see you Adrian).

The Lions are not going to be able to keep pace with Kansas City offensively, so the back line is going to need to bring its A-game on Sunday. If anybody goes off for Sporting, this one might be over quickly.

I don't expect the kind of defensive collapses we saw from the Lions against Toronto and Seattle, but Orlando City could struggle to deal with the depth of this KC roster. Both Feilhaber and Krisztian Németh provide the club with additional offensive threats behind Dwyer, so it will be imperative for Orlando to keep tabs on these guys as well.

Prediction: Orlando City 2, Sporting Kansas City 1

Nope, I'm not crazy. But this prediction really has more to do with Sporting than Orlando City.

KC is coming off a road game in Portland on Wednesday, followed by a cross-country flight to Orlando that should leave the team with some serious jet lag. They are going to be a lot of tired bodies on that Kansas City sideline and I think that should give Orlando an edge in hot, humid Central Florida.

A rejuvenated Larin will build off a successful international break with Canada, and I'm excited to see what he and Carlos Rivas can do against a beleaguered Kansas City back line. Whether or not Kaká is able to go for this one, those two players could be the ones who determine whether or not the Lions come out on top.