July 21 may seem far away, but for Orlando City it will be a day with a game the Lions need to earn three points from as they face off against Atlanta United at home. The break could not have come soon enough for Jason Kreis and crew as they recently lost at home to Toronto FC, 3-1. Losing at home in this fashion is not common for the Lions but it is something the team will surely want to correct quickly.
This break is a chance to get some much-needed leg rest and mental rest for the men in purple. It is also a chance for Jason Kreis to get back to basics in training, game plan for the second half of the season, and think about what is the best squad to lead the Lions ahead. With all of this said, let’s jump into the three things to look out for as Orlando City prepares to take on Atlanta United for the first time ever.
It’s Time to Reclaim Home Field Advantage
When this season started, one thing seemed to be a certainty for Orlando City — the team wins at home. It started the season with five straight home wins and extended it to a six-game unbeaten streak at home. Since that streak at home ended on May 13, the team has lost three (two in MLS, one in U.S. Open Cup), tied two, and only won once. That is almost two months of time that has passed. To say the least, home has not been the advantage fans expect to see from their team in recent weeks.
This break, as mentioned before, should be exactly what the team needs to get back to the level of play fans have seen, specifically at the beginning of the season. It is a time for rest and recovery and once the season picks back up the Lions will need to play like every match is their last.
Home field is crucial for the second part of the season as the team only plays six matches in Orlando and eight on the road. Losses cannot be afforded at home and, in all honesty, neither can ties given how hard the road schedule should be. Home field is of the utmost importance moving forward.
Playing for Playoff Positioning
Orlando City SC and Atlanta United will play on July 21 and then again on July 29 in what will be back-to-back matches for both clubs.
Both games are crucial to each team’s push for the playoffs as Atlanta United sits in fourth place and Orlando City is in fifth. Atlanta has 30 points earned on the season and Orlando City is not far behind, with 29.
It should be obvious that if Orlando City wins back-to-back matches against Atlanta then the Lions will place themselves in a great position pushing towards the playoffs. However, the exact same thing could be said for Atlanta, which would distance the gap between itself and OCSC significantly.
Winning back-to-back will be very tough as Atlanta has proven to be a really explosive team this season. Orlando may not match the explosiveness but they are the grittier team between the two and more defensively sound (for the most part). The home match is a must-win for Orlando City for both confidence and playoff purposes. The away game to Atlanta is one in which Orlando will obviously want to win, but grinding out a tie will be huge for the club.
Cyle Larin Must Score
Cyle Larin has not scored a goal since the 2-0 victory on May 31 against D.C. United.
Larin obviously had a difficult June due to a DUI arrest that resulted in a mandatory program where he missed three matches for Orlando City. The facts still remain the same, Larin has not scored since May and he is the Lions’ best finisher without a doubt.
A home game, that has a must-win feel, against an inexperienced yet talented team after a long and needed break, should provide the perfect opportunity for Larin to once again find the back of the net. Cyle has proven time and time again to be a deadly finisher and if Orlando City expects to make the playoffs and win big-time games as the second half of the season begins, Larin will have to be the one to lead the Lions forward. Larin scoring against Atlanta may be a bigger need than most realize.
Any other things you’ll be keeping an eye out for? Let us know in the comments.