The mood surrounding Orlando City SC this week has been noticeably less glum following the 3-1 victory over Sporting Kansas City on Sunday night, which has certainly been a welcome change. The Lions, despite their epic skid in recent months, still remain alive in the race for the MLS postseason, but their margin for error remains razor thin with just five regular season matches remaining.
As Sunday's triumph proved, the Lions can be quite good within the confines of the Citrus Bowl, even if they don't show it as consistently as they should. With a pair of home games remaining on the slate against Montreal Impact and New York City FC, Orlando has six very winnable points in front of them at home.
While these points are far from guaranteed, if the Lions are to make current sixth-place Montreal – who somehow still have four games in hand thanks to MLS scheduling – sweat in the race for the postseason, they should expect to handle business at home against those Eastern Conference foes.
The other nine remaining points, then, will be played for on the road. Given Orlando City's recent road form, this presents a massive challenge to the first-year MLS club.
The last time City picked up three points away from home was way back on June 6, when the Lions rallied to beat Chicago Fire, 3-2, thanks to some late-game fireworks courtesy of Cyle Larin and Carlos Rivas. Since that night, Orlando is winless in its last seven road matches, with one draw and six losses. The Lions have lost five on the bounce on the road, and things have gotten particularly ugly with OCSC conceding 21 times in the those five, allowing at least three goals in every outing and four or more goals four times.
The only time Orlando came home during that span with anything to show from a road match was on July 4 after a 1-1 draw at Real Salt Lake. While opponents have shipped in goals seemingly at will, the Lions have failed to register a goal in three consecutive away matches.
These numbers are alarming, to say the least, especially considering one of Orlando's remaining away contests is at New York Red Bulls, whose 47 goals this season trails only Columbus Crew and LA Galaxy, league wide.
While the trip to NYRB will be daunting, the two remaining road trips are to Chicago this week and Philadelphia on Oct. 25 -- two teams currently below Orlando in the East. The Lions, as mentioned above, have proven they can win in Bridgeview already, and the eighth-place Union will provide another big opportunity for a victory.
While the road has been unkind to Orlando this season, two winnable fixtures and a squad that may finally be getting back to (relative) health for the first time in what seems like forever bodes well for OCSC. Brek Shea is back on the left and a healthy back line behind a midfield duo of Servando Carrasco and Cristian Higuita inspired a lot of confidence on Sunday, with Seb Hines nearing a return as well.
Kaká is the latest injury casualty, but after being declared as day-to-day last week, he will presumably be back to full health in short order following his adductor injury while with the Seleção.
Orlando remains in a tough spot even after the win on Sunday, but we will see whether or not the Lions can parlay a solid performance this past weekend into a real run at the sixth spot in the East. Having dropped so many points through the summer months, the Lions have left themselves so other choice but to get it done on the road.