First off, let's just pretend that midweek game didn't happen.
If Orlando City (5-7-13, 28 points) is lucky, then a Miami Dolphins-Atlanta Falcons preseason game washed any memories of Jozy Altidore's late winner from the Camping World Stadium turf. A primetime matchup with New York City FC (11-7-8, 41 points) on Sunday is simply too important for the Lions to dwell on this week's missed opportunity.
A victory against Major League Soccer's other second-year club would be valuable for the Lions on a couple different fronts. Three points would help Orlando keep pace in the Eastern Conference playoff race, especially with sixth-place D.C. United getting Chicago at home this weekend. Beating NYCFC would also give Orlando a third win over its expansion rival.
Oh yeah, and this is a totally a Jason Kreis revenge game.
Starting XI and Lineup Predictions:
I'm still getting to used to second guessing Kreis, so don't be surprised if this is another lineup whiff. But let's focus on what we know for sure coming into Sunday's match.
Since the 3-1 loss to Seattle earlier this month, Orlando's new boss has started Kaká on the left in every game, with Matías Pérez García or Júlio Baptista playing a more central role as the No. 10. So that looks like it's becoming a thing.
With MPG going 90 minutes against Toronto, I wouldn't be surprised if Baptista gets the starting nod this weekend in the attacking midfield, so the front four looks much the way it did in last week's draw with the Colorado Rapids. That could also mean Brek Shea in for Kevin Molino, if Kreis still wants to ease the Trinidadian back into the lineup after hamstring issues and an appearance on Wednesday.
In the defensive midfield, look for Nocerino to continue his late-season revival under Kreis with another appearance in the starting XI. He was pulled midway through the second half on Wednesday and should once again pair with Servando Carrasco, who was given most of the night off against Toronto.
New York City FC:
That midfield is...something. With Frank Lampard, Andoni Iraola and Andrea Pirlo set to lead the line this weekend, NYCFC can boast over 1,000 games of top-flight European experience in its midfield alone. It's tough to see Orlando enjoying much possession against that group, though Nocerino will get another chance to go up against one of the great Italian stars in MLS.
Slowing down David Villa will have to be a top priority for the Lions on Sunday. Tommy Redding was impressive against El Guaje in their first meeting this season, so it will be interesting if Kreis turns to his young defender even after Redding put in a full shift earlier this week.
Player(s) to Watch:
You know the big names. You even know Tommy McNamara because of the hair and long-range strikes. So let's take a look at one of the "unknown" guys in this NYCFC lineup. And honestly, there aren't many to choose from.
How about Jack Harrison? The English-born midfielder got his start at Manchester United as an academy player before moving to Boston when he was just a teenager. After tearing up the ACC for Wake Forest, the 19-year-old became the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft. He's already shown signs he could be the real deal.
For real though, what's Nick Rimando doing there?
Prediction: New York City 4, Orlando City 2
I can't seem to buy a prediction lately, so hopefully this brings good luck to the Lions. NYCFC's playing out of its mind right now and while Orlando can certainly score against this group, I don't think the Lions see much of the ball. Let's say that Kreis has some inside knowledge (maybe Villa hates confetti?) on New York that helps keep Orlando City in the game, but this club needs to prove me wrong before I start calling for three points every week.