It feels like Orlando City (6-7-13, 31 points) has spent a lifetime sitting just outside the Eastern Conference playoffs. The kids are back in school, the NFL kicks off this week, and Orlando still has some work to do if the Lions want to lock down their first MLS playoff appearance in club history.
They could take a big step towards that goal against the Montreal Impact (9-7-10, 37 points) tomorrow night.
After a huge win against NYCFC and much-needed weekend off, the Lions head north of the border to face a Montreal club looking to cushion its own playoff position and move clear of the knockout round. A win against the Impact would give Orlando its first winning streak of the season and catapult the Lions into sixth place in the Eastern Conference. No, you're the one who needs to calm down.
Starting XI and Lineup Projections:
After a huge win over the Eastern Conference front-runners, why mess around?
Orlando City showed resilience in its 2-1 victory over NYCFC, but also gave us a better look at how Jason Kreis is looking to build his lineup. Matías Pérez García looks like the answer this season as the club's No. 10, taking over a central attacking role that Kaká occupied almost by default under Adrian Heath.
In defense, José Aja has made a real case to become City's first-choice center back this season. The Uruguayan loanee has impressed in big games against Colorado and New York City, as the Lions grabbed a result in each match. He could be in line for another start against Montreal.
The club will have to survive without Cyle Larin and Kevin Molino, who are with their respective nations on international duty. It could be time to unleash The Beast on Canada, with Julio Baptista giving Kreis a tempting option at forward.
International duty means the Impact will be without Ambroise Oyongo and Johan Venegas against Orlando, but the bigger news is Didier Drogba's potential absence with a hamstring injury.
The Chelsea legend went down in a big win over Toronto FC last week, and could give the Lions one less thing to worry about in Montreal's attack. Matteo Mancosu could be in line to get the start, so let's get to know the Bologna loanee...
Player to Watch:
While not the traditional kind of MLS loan target, Mancosu brings some experience to the Impact and a proven attacking option to back up Drogba.
The 31-year-old spent his whole career in Italy before joining the Impact on loan from Serie A club Bologna. His stock rose dramatically in 2015, after Mancosu notched his 50th goal with Serie B side Trapani Calcio, but that production didn't carry over to the Italian top flight. Fortunately for Bologna, team owner Joey Saputo also owns a club in MLS...the Montreal Impact, where Mancosu was sent
out to pasture to rediscover his form.
Prediction: Orlando City 2, Montreal Impact 2
This seems to be Orlando's favorite scoreline this year and the Impact have been tough to beat at home, so I see these clubs splitting the points. If the Lions hope to continue their late season charge up the standings, a draw is the very least they can afford as they begin a brutal portion of the schedule.
Look for some offensive fireworks north of the border, and a valuable point that keeps City within striking distance of that all-important playoff berth.