Orlando City could not have walked away from its two-game home stand over the last two weeks feeling like it left leaving anything more on the table. The Lions played to a 1-1 draw with the Columbus Crew, then dropped all three points in a 2-1 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps this past weekend.
Now Orlando City heads into one of the toughest stretches on its schedule this season when the team travels north to kick off a four-game road trip against the New England Revolution (8-12-5, 29 points) on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium (7 p.m. ET, TV27).
Orlando City (8-11-7, 31 points) is winless in its last seven matches, and the Lions are now just three points above D.C. United in the Eastern Conference, while remaining six back of Atlanta United FC, which currently occupies the final playoff spot. The Lions’ playoff probability is down to just two percent, according to MLSSoccer.com, and there is not even the slightest bit of room for error now.
The Lions head to Foxborough this weekend to take on the Revolution in a match that was originally scheduled to take place in the second week of the season but was forced into postponement by extreme weather in the northeast.
The Revs have dropped each of their last two matches, but they’ve won three straight at home and are just two points back of City heading into the weekend. A win would jump them over Orlando, which could fall to 10th place in the East heading into a match-up with the last-place D.C. team next weekend.
Orlando will be fighting an uphill battle from the very first whistle on Saturday, having to play this one without five key starters. Cyle Larin (Canada) and Yoshi Yotún (Peru) have both been called up for international duty this weekend, while Will Johnson (ankle) and Jonathan Spector (knee) remain out with injuries, although the former returned to training this week. Additionally, Cristian Higuita will be suspended for the match after hitting yellow card accumulation against Vancouver.
With the Lions fairly thin in the midfield now, this could lead to Jason Kreis calling on Servando Carrasco, who has seen minimal minutes lately with the addition of Yotún bringing another starting-caliber midfielder to the mix.
4-4-2 flat is the most likely scenario, but I could also see a 4-2-3-1 with Antonio Nocerino and Carrasco playing below a Carlos Rivas-Kaká-Giles Barnes attacking line.
Either way, the challenge for the Lions will be scoring goals. They haven’t scored more than one in a game since June 17, and now they’re without their leading scorer this weekend.
New England Revolution
The Revs weren’t hit quite as hard by having to play in this international window too. They’ll be without defenders Je-Vaughn Watson (Jamaica) and Antonio Delamea (Slovenia) because of international duty, and that’s it. Other than that, midfielder Kelyn Rowe is out for at least the next month because of a right knee sprain and Lee Nguyen is questionable thanks to a nagging hamstring injury, a potentially big loss for New England.
But the Revs are still a team, as they have always been, with a lot of talented attacking players; their biggest problem has been playing up to that potential. Kei Kamara, Juan Agudelo, and Lee Nguyen are all tied for the team lead with eight goals this season.
The Lions will have a chance this weekend if they can stop that attack.
Player to Watch For
Kei Kamara and Orlando City have a bit of a history. He wasn’t well liked when he was a member of the Crew, finding the net a couple of times against the Lions, and he’s still a major threat to do that in New England. The Lions aren’t particularly great in the air with Spector out and Jose Aja on the bench, but Kamara is and it will be vital that Orlando’s center backs, whether it’s Leo Pereira or Aja starting alongside Tommy Redding, neutralize his ability on the air.
Prediction: Orlando City 1, New England Revolution 1.
The playoff chase officially ends this weekend, unfortunately.