With fewer than a dozen games left in the regular season, the only thing we know for sure about Orlando City (5-6-11, 26 points) is that you just never know.
The Lions were overhauled on the fly after a disappointing start to 2016, yet find themselves level on points for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They were unbeatable at home this season until Seattle decided they weren't in a disappointing 3-1 loss. And they should be able to handle the last-place Chicago Fire (4-11-6, 18 points) this weekend, unless they can't.
These clubs last met in the second game of the year back in March, with a 1-1 draw at the
Citrus Bowl campground, leaving a bad taste in the mouth of Orlando supporters. Cyle Larin scored a firecracker for the Lions, only for it be canceled out by a solo effort from David Accam.
And no, that's not how you pronounce David Accam's name.
Starting XI and Lineup Projections:
Look for Jason Kreis to make a couple changes after last Sunday's disappointing home result.
Two of these moves won't even be up to the new boss, as David Mateos will be forced to sit out against Chicago with a yellow card accumulation penalty and Antonio Nocerino will be suspended through a decision by the MLS Disciplinary Committee. Both players looked set for another appearance in the starting XI, but the Lions do feature some depth at those positions.
Look for young Tommy Redding to slide in at center back alongside Seb Hines, while Cristian Higuita gets his first chance to impress Kreis from the opening whistle. His ouster from the starting lineup in favor of Nocerino was perhaps the most dramatic move that Kreis made during his first two games at the helm.
After a U.S. Open Cup loss to New England in the midweek, look for Chicago to field a lineup that mixes first-choice starters and rested legs. MLS All-Star Brandon Vincent came off the bench on Wednesday, but should get the start against Orlando City.
Matt Polster should be fit enough to return from a groin injury and give Chicago some added firepower in the midfield.
Player(s) to Watch:
Everything you need to know about David Accam you can learn from this goal.
So let's focus on Brandon Vincent, the Chicago rookie who also earned his first All-Star nod last month. Coming from the same Stanford Cardinal program that gave us Jordan Morris, the 22-year-old went fourth overall in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft.
A Southern California native, Vincent earned his first USMNT call-up in January and has already logged 1,198 league minutes for the Fire in 2016. He should give Kevin Alston everything he can handle on Sunday afternoon.
Prediction: Orlando City 1 Chicago Fire 0
I don't think it's going to be pretty, but I think Orlando City is going to pick up its second road win of the season on Sunday.
Despite some roster tweaks due to disciplinary suspensions, Orlando City is still sending out a group with plenty of MLS experience against the Fire. I'm bullish on whether or not the Lions can actually jump New England for the sixth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but a win this weekend could go a long way to making that a reality.