This weekend's game against the Montreal Impact couldn't fit the larger narrative better. Two teams with playoff ambitions, both on a good streak of games, two of the game's most decorated players meeting up in a crucial late season decider. A young upstart looking for one game to turn around a mediocre first season against another young team ready to take that next step toward legitimacy in a notoriously tight league.
We've said it a few times, "this is the most important game of the season!" While the previous games were important, they were leading up to this one. Orlando City wins this one and I might just be writing that our first playoff game is the most important one of the season.
As fans, this is all we could ask for. None of us circled "Montreal Impact, Oct. 3, 2015" as the decider. This roller coaster ride of a season has delivered us here. Three big wins, including two road wins, have given our Lions new heart and fight. Capitulate in any of the last three games and lose one, we aren't having this conversation.
As a player, these are the kinds of games you dream of playing in. A packed home stadium and the game winner on your foot. Inches decide whose name is sung on a humid Orlando night. You play all season, you fight to recover from injuries, to find your form, and to make the starting 11, to be on the field for a game like this one.
I don't want to mislead you. Even a victory over the Montreal Impact doesn't secure Orlando City's place in the MLS postseason party. We need other results to go our way. Montreal, D.C. United, or Toronto FC need to drop games somewhere. In a league like Major League Soccer, crazier things happen on a near nightly basis.
Don't even think about all the points we've given to all three of the clubs ahead of us. Saturday is all about the moment. The off-season is for the could-have-beens and almosts, so, this weekend is about seizing destiny and giving it a good fight. If we aren't going to make the playoffs, make them at least shut the door in our face.
Montreal is on a winning streak of their own, and there is the matter of their mid-season signing, former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba. While many European players take a period of adjustment, the Ivorian has hit the ground running at pace. Two MLS Player of the Week awards and seven goals in six games have punctuated a fantastic start in North America.
While the Impact are on a run, they are also up against a stack of games on the road beginning with their trip to Orlando. Of their final five games, four are on the road. At the same time, Orlando has three games left, all winnable, and two at home. A win for Orlando City on Saturday makes the end of the season really interesting.
Drogba and company are lining up against an in-form Orlando City, with a healthy Brek Shea, an invigorated Kaká, and a rookie goal scoring record holder in Cyle Larin. The Lions have shown they can run riot when they are playing on the same page and healthy. They've also shown us a club with plenty of weaknesses to exploit.
There are no promises Saturday and I'd be a fool to predict how the Orlando City faithful will feel walking out of the Citrus Bowl at the end of the evening. That's why they play the game. #GoCity #MakeItCount