Ladies and gentlemen, it is with a heavy heart that I must inform you Orlando City is sliding.
No, it’s not that bad, and it could be much worse — as the last two seasons in MLS have come to show us — but it’s not great either. And now the Lions head back on the road to Minneapolis in the midst of a five-game winless streak as they take on Minnesota United FC (3-7-2, 11 points) this Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium (8 p.m. ET, TV27).
Orlando City (6-4-2, 20 points) is coming into the match on the heels of its first home loss this season at Orlando City Stadium, falling to New York City FC, 3-0. Overall, it was the club’s third loss of the month after a pair of draws against the San Jose Earthquakes and Sporting Kansas City.
Since the Lions entered the month, they went from the most points in MLS through seven games to sitting in fourth place in the Eastern Conference and just four points above the dreaded red line.
Over in the land of the 10,000 lakes, Minnesota, led by former Orlando City gaffer Adrian Heath, is having a pretty typical expansion season to this point. The Loons have dropped seven games this season, including a 2-1 loss at home against the LA Galaxy this past weekend.
It’s unfortunate that we have to wait another year for Heath and Minnesota to visit Orlando, but nonetheless, there’s no doubt that the long-time Lions boss will be angling for three points more than ever on Saturday night.
The Lions have struggled to score goals this month, with just four in their last five games. Three of those have come from Kaká, and just one from Cyle Larin. They’re also one of just two remaining teams in MLS that haven’t scored three or more goals this season, with the other being New York Red Bulls.
Larin’s scoring drought has been a slight cause for concern due to the fact that if he’s not scoring, the team, most likely, is also not scoring. But we know by now what he’s capable of and it’s nothing to panic about just yet. After all, he is still very talented.
The week of rest between games should help not just Larin but the rest of the squad, as the schedule has been packed this month and will continue to be into the coming week, with three games in nine days.
However, the rest means everybody should be healthy and good to go when Kreis fills out his lineup card Saturday, and I would expect to see the regular starting cast back in action this weekend against Minnesota, with Jose Aja returning to the lineup after resting against NYCFC.
Minnesota United FC
When everything is said and done this season, the Loons will likely be sitting on the outside looking in at the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean this team doesn’t have some exciting pieces to build around for the next several seasons.
For example: Minnesota’s two leading goal scorers, Christian Ramirez and Kevin Molino, who you may remember from his handful of years in Orlando, which included two USL MVP awards. Molino joined Minnesota for a record amount of allocation money prior to the start of the season, and has continued his old ways with five goals this season, two behind Ramirez, the former NASL standout that has seven goals in his first season in MLS.
The defense has been much better since the additions of Marc Burch and Sam Cronin from Colorado, so don’t think it’s going to be one of those nights where Orlando City is going to drop four or five goals. Minnesota is an expansion team, but it’s still competitive.
Player to Watch For
It’s going to be fun watching Molino face his old team for the first time. Molino was a winger with Orlando in MLS, but has been deployed primarily as a central attacking midfielder for Heath at Minnesota, so it’ll be interesting to see how he stacks up against Antonio Nocerino in the middle.
Prediction: Orlando City 1, Minnesota United 0
Of course, this will be the one game when I predict a low-scoring match and then we end up seeing five goals. But I don’t think that will be the case. Orlando’s defense will come out strong, and anybody but Nocerino will score the lone goal.