When Orlando City SC started its 2017 MLS campaign with six wins in seven games it seemed the team was poised to make history and advance to the playoffs for the first time. Sixteen matches — and only two wins — later, the Lions are not in a comfortable position anymore as the team has dropped to the seventh place and is currently out of the playoff picture.
Much of the Lions’ fate in the season may be decided in the next two weekends, when the team plays the New York Red Bulls in New Jersey and hosts Columbus Crew SC at Orlando City Stadium. A pair of wins would do wonders for Orlando and could send it to as high as fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
The away game against the Red Bulls is arguably the tougher task of the two, but it is actually a very important one. A much-needed road win would make Orlando jump to 33 points, closing the gap to both the Red Bulls (35) and Atlanta United (35) as the expansion franchise has the weekend off. The Lions could also surpass Crew SC (33), as the Ohioans have a tough game ahead of them versus the up and coming Chicago Fire.
If the latter does not happen this week, a new opportunity will be presented the following Saturday, when Crew SC comes to Florida. Columbus is expected to compete with Orlando City for a playoff spot until the end and, considering the teams will meet again on their second to last regular season match, building some advantage now could be extremely helpful in the near future.
Orlando City has experienced several up and downs during its campaign, but amassing some positive results in the next couple of weeks could seal the team’s fate in 2017. With the additions of Dom Dwyer and Yoshismar Yotún, the Lions seem to have enough talent to compete for a playoff spot and there is no better time to show it than now.