A 1-1 draw with the Columbus Crew cut the Lions’ playoff probability virtually in half last weekend, dropping them down to around six percent with nine games still left this season. While, yes, there is still hypothetically a chance, it’s looking like we’re in for a third consecutive playoff-less season in Orlando.
“I still believe that this group is good enough and everybody else out there can think that we’re dead and we’re not,” Head Coach Jason Kreis said after Saturday’s game against Columbus. “We don’t believe that we’re dead. We still have every chance to push forward and reach our objective.”
The room for error is gone, and Orlando City (8-10-7, 31 points) will have its chance to show everybody, once and for all, it isn’t dead yet on Saturday against the Whitecaps. Vancouver heads into town off a quick turnaround after playing to a 1-1 draw in Seattle on Wednesday night.
Being a Western Conference team, Vancouver (10-9-5, 35 points) only meets up with Orlando once a year. In 2016, the Lions made their first ever trip to BC Place in Vancouver and played to a 2-2 draw last July. The year prior, in 2015, the Whitecaps visited the stadium formerly known as the Citrus Bowl and stole three points from Orlando on a late free-kick goal from Octavio Rivero for a 1-0 win.
The Lions head into this one without both Will Johnson, who is out for the next two to four weeks due to an ankle injury suffered against Columbus, and Jonathan Spector, who is still recovering from a knee injury.
On the flip side, Kaká returns to the lineup after serving his one-game suspension this past weekend.
On paper, this one is set up for Orlando. The Lions are at home on a normal week’s worth of rest and preparation, while Vancouver is not only travelling several thousands of miles across the country, but also had to play midweek at home against Seattle. The key for Orlando will be, simply, finishing its chances. The team hasn’t been able to do that this season, and if it had been able to score, say, five goals in any five situations throughout the season then we might be writing about a lot of different things heading into this weekend.
Too many times this season, we’ve walked away from matches thinking Orlando should have gotten more from the match because of how much it out-played the other team but didn’t because it couldn’t take advantage of what was on the table.
I haven’t watched much of the Whitecaps this season, being a team from the West and all, but I can best describe them as a team that isn’t among the best in their conference, but also not among the worst. They’re roughly in the middle of the pack.
Vancouver currently holds the final playoff spot in the West and has only lost once in its last five games. While sporting a goal differential of plus-1, the Whitecaps have also averaged 1.5 goals per game this season, a half goal higher than Orlando.
They’re led on the front lines by Fredy Montero, who is enjoying a successful return to MLS this season with 11 goals, including one in a 90-minute performance against Seattle on Wednesday.
16-year-old Alphonso Davies hasn’t started for the team since returning from the Gold Cup with Canada, but could see significant minutes in this one as Carl Robinson looks to keep his team fresh. The same could be said for Brek Shea, who hasn’t played in either of Vancouver’s last two games.
Player to Watch For
As I mentioned, Montero is the club’s leading scorer and has five goals in his last five games, so he’ll be someone to keep on eye on as a strong presence at the top of the field for the Whitecaps — provided he plays. Orlando did a really solid job of making Ola Kamara almost invisible for most of the match last week, so it’ll hope to do the same this week with Montero.
Prediction: Orlando City 1, Vancouver Whitecaps 0
We’ve reach the point in the season where I have no confidence in what I predict. I don’t like predicting losses unless the odds are really against Orlando, but in this one I have a tough time believing — and yes, I know how poor the team has been playing — Orlando drops points in this one too.