It’s been a long season for Orlando City. It feels like just yesterday we were sitting in what was then called the Citrus Bowl and watching the Lions come back with two goals in stoppage time to draw with Real Salt Lake, 2-2, in front of over 60,000 fans. But now the final game is upon us.
On Sunday, Orlando City will host D.C. United in the club’s final game at Camping World Stadium after five seasons, two USL championships, and two 60,000-plus MLS season-openers.
For the Lions, it’s the final game of a season which has seen a coach fired, a fan favorite leave over the summer, and a second consecutive October without a playoff appearance. The club has nothing but pride left to play for.
On the other side, D.C. United has already clinched a playoff spot. The Black & Red currently sit in fourth place in the Eastern Conference entering the final weekend of the regular season. D.C. rides into Orlando on a four-game winning streak, including a 4-1 win over the Lions at RFK Stadium a few weeks ago. D.C. battered Orlando with a brace by Patrick Mullins and three assists by Taylor Kemp.
The Lions are coming off of a convincing 2-0 win over the Philadelphia Union last weekend on the road. Jason Kreis returned to the 4-4-2 against Philly, displaying more of a wide diamond shape this time around, with Kaká and Matías Pérez García as the wing players, while Kevin Molino rode the bench.
As it’s been written many times, the odds of Kreis going to that 4-4-2 permanently this off-season are pretty high, otherwise he wouldn’t continue to experiment with that particular formation. And because of that, and with the Lions no longer battling for playoff position, it makes sense that we’d likely see more of the same this weekend against D.C.
Predicting the lineup is forever tough, so I’ll go with more of the basic same this time around.
Cyle Larin and Carlos Rivas will remain the point men, with Kreis turning to the three attacking mid-style 4-4-2 with Kaká, Perez Garcia and Molino, and Antonio Nocerino running as the No. 6.
Luke Boden, Seb Hines, and Tommy Redding will slot back into defense, alongside Rafael Ramos, who made his first appearance since May against the Union last week.
D.C. has clinched. They’re into the playoffs. That doesn’t mean, however, they’ll be treating this game like it’s nothing. Playoff seeding is still on the line as the club tries to finish fourth in the East above Montreal. And playing well heading into the playoffs doesn’t hurt either.
United is coming off of a big 3-1 victory over New York City FC last week where Patrick Mullins added yet another goal to his tally since coming to D.C in a summer trade that has turned out to be one of the most important transfers this season.
There’s no reason to believe Mullins won’t be starting up top for D.C., with Luciano Acosta, Lamar Neagle, Jared Jeffrey, and Lloyd Sam underneath him. Rob Vincent lines up as the lone holding midfielder, and D.C. runs a tight ship in the back with Steve Birbaum, Taylor Kemp, Nick DeLeon, and Bobby Boswell.
Player to Watch For
Mullins is the man that’s going to give Orlando City the most fits, I believe. The Lions’ back line struggled to contain the United attack a few weeks ago in D.C., and Mullins took advantage of that with a pair of goals.
Sunday’s game will be all about honoring the past and future with the final game at Camping World Stadium taking place, but the Lions can’t get too nostalgic and forget about one of the most dangerous forwards in the league since July.
Prediction: Orlando City 3, D.C. United 0
Orlando City will surely go out in Camping World Stadium with a big, fun victory in the final game of the year. The club is hoping for a party, and nobody wants a loss to rain on their parade of history.