It feels like just yesterday Orlando City went into Montreal and dropped four goals on the Impact en route to a three-goal victory, their second consecutive win after defeating New York City FC at home a week earlier.
Since then, however, nothing has been quite the same.
The Lions dropped three straight games after that win, and gave up 12 goals over those three matches before finally halting the skid with a scoreless draw in Toronto on Wednesday night.
And now Orlando City gets another round with Montreal, which comes to Camping World Stadium on Sunday.
Trailing D.C. United now by five points with three games to go, Orlando City can’t afford to drop another game this season, meaning the Lions must win their next two games to have any hope of making the playoffs when they go into the final day of the regular season against D.C. at home on Oct. 23.
It’s kind of tough to say what Jason Kreis is going to do at this point, if I’m being honest. Nobody really saw him going to a diamond formation for the first time against Toronto on Wednesday, and even though that only lasted roughly 40 minutes, you can’t entirely rule it out that he goes there again.
This run has, of course, been mostly about evaluating talent for 2017, and seeing how that talent handles what’s ahead is a smart move. But again, I have no idea what he’s going to do.
Cyle Larin has been very quiet for Orlando City over the past month or so, and you could say that’s been a big factor in the team’s recent struggles. Kevin Molino, too. None of that’s good.
Antonio Nocerino will be back from his one-game suspension. That’ll help out the midfield. And Servando Carrasco has logged a lot of minutes lately — too many, if you ask me — so I would think Cristian Higuita gets his due start at some point.
Kevin Alston will get the start because Rafael Ramos can’t seem to crack the lineup, even though all indications are that he’s fully fit. Maybe.
For those asking-Ramos is available for matches. Did some exercises alone w/trainer Silas yesterday, so fitness may still be issue for Kreis— Alicia Rose DelGallo (@OSAliciaD) September 29, 2016
It’s been a rough few weeks for the Impact, which were winless in four games before a 3-1 win over San Jose on Wednesday night. The Impact are just a point up on D.C. for the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, and really they’re not a sure thing to even make the playoffs yet, especially with their recent form.
Didier Drogba hates playing on turf, and you can probably bank on him starting Sunday’s game on the bench because of the Camping World Stadium surface. That, of course, is an advantage for Orlando City, but still doesn’t take away from the likes of Ignacio Piatti and Dominic Oduro up on the front line.
Harry Shipp has had some troubles getting on the field lately, but he’s still a quality player that can run the midfield and be a factor for the Impact.
And of course, Laurent Ciman anchors down the back line alongside Victor Cabrera, Hassoun Camara, and Ambroise Oyongo.
Player to Watch
In a word, Piatti. He hasn’t been in the MVP discussion this season for some reason, but his 15 goals and six assists have him up there among the league’s elite.
Piatti is the kind of player like a Kaká, or even Matias Perez Garcia of late, who can create opportunities for not only his teammates, but himself. He’s dangerous both on and off the ball, and will be a handful for Orlando City’s defense.
Piatti and Oduro are going to stretch Orlando City’s back line, and the Argentine forward will make the most of those opportunities.
Prediction: Orlando City 3, Montreal Impact 1
Orlando City is at home, desperately needs to win this game, the home support will be behind the team 1,000 percent, and it’s going to be hard to bet against the Lions pulling out a victory.