Yet again, we’re at the start of August and Orlando City finds itself chasing points from below the red line. The Lions continue to struggle to pick up wins after their blistering hot start in the first two months of the season, and are now trailing the Columbus Crew for the final playoff spot in the East by two points with 12 games left on the schedule.
This weekend, Orlando’s pursuit for the playoffs continues when the club heads back over the northern border to take on the Montreal Impact (6-8-6, 24 points) on Saturday night at Stade Saputo (7:30 p.m. ET, TV27).
Orlando City (8-8-6, 30 points) is coming off of a 1-1 draw at Atlanta United last weekend. Kaká gave the visitors a lead shortly before the halftime whistle, but Hector Villalba, who is quickly becoming a thorn in Orlando’s side, netted the equalizing goal in stoppage time to claim a result for the expansion side for the second week in a row.
Montreal comes in hoping to turn the ship around as well, having lost each of its last two games and four of the last six overall. This past weekend was a rough one for the Impact, as they left Red Bull Arena on Saturday with a 4-0 loss to the Red Bulls in hand. On the season, the Impact sit second to last in the East with 24 points through 20 games.
Orlando and Montreal have met just once this season, in a 3-3 draw in Orlando back in June, after Jonathan Spector’s late goal equalized for the Lions. Ignacio Piatti scored twice and Blerim Dzemaili added another to give Montreal a 3-2 lead in that game despite the Lions looking like the better side most of the match. Spector’s goal rescued a point in stoppage time.
After quick stops in Chicago to take part in the MLS All-Star Game on Wednesday night, Kaká and Dom Dwyer flew directly to Montreal for tomorrow’s match.
Dwyer made his debut for the club against Atlanta after just two days of training, and even though he started the match and played the majority of the game, he still looked like a guy that had only been with the team for just two days and is clearly still settling in with his new club.
Cyle Larin typically doesn’t perform well in games in his home country, but his partnership up top with Dwyer will be a focus once again this week. Hopefully the Lions can find the right way to feed those two the ball, which they couldn’t do against Atlanta with a slew of low-quality long balls over the top.
The Impact haven’t made a whole lot of news in the league this season after finishing runner-up to Toronto FC in the Eastern Conference Finals last year. As I’ve mentioned, they’re sitting in the bottom third of the league standings and all but it’s still not safe to say they won’t be challenging for the MLS Cup again this season.
Piatti is the team’s best player and a focal point for the Impact on the attack, with eight goals in 15 games this season. Homegrown forward Anthony Jackson-Hamel is another name to watch out for. He has five goals this season and returned to the squad this past weekend against New York after featuring for Canada in the Gold Cup last month.
Player to Watch For
If you were to make a list of the most underrated players in the league, chances are you would want to put Piatti near the top. Playing for Montreal,he tends to fly under the radar, but make no mistake, he’s one of the most talented attacking players in the league and can skillfully slice through defenders. Orlando City’s defensive midfielders will need to keep a close eye on him.
Prediction: Orlando City 2, Montreal Impact 1
Orlando was able to get a result on the road at Atlanta, which is a positive thing, and Montreal is struggling this season. I think the Lions will be able to carry that momentum and pick up all three points from this one.