As we all know, it hasn’t been the easiest of seasons for our Lions. A fast start marred by a dreadful summer has left the team on the outside of the playoffs looking in, with a series of minor miracles necessary for Orlando City to make the postseason. Six games remain and, while the Lions only have seven points to make up on the New York Red Bulls, who sit in the last Eastern Conference playoff spot, such a scenario seems unlikely.
But a little daydreaming never hurt anybody now, did it? So buckle up, grab something to eat, and let’s allow our imaginations to run wild with what a perfect finish to the end of the season might look like. I feel it’s necessary to insert a disclaimer here: if you’re looking for hard-hitting soccer analysis mired in facts and statistics, then I’m afraid you’ll be sorely disappointed. If, however, you’re feeling the need for a little humor in your life, then you just might have come to the right place.
9/16/17: Away to Atlanta United
An away game in the newly opened Mercedes-Benz Stadium might not sound like the most inviting task, especially considering how Atlanta just played the New England Revolution straight off the pitch and back onto the bus. But never fear! Much to the surprise of everyone, Jason Kreis’ men execute a textbook smash-and-grab operation, running out of Atlanta as 1-0 winners courtesy of a Scott Sutter header in the 34th minute; immediately followed by all 11 players parking the bus so hard that Jose Mourinho shed a single happy tear.
9/24/17: Away to Portland Timbers
Another game you don’t really want to see on your schedule when attempting to haul yourself above the playoff line. While many expect OCSC to sit back, soak up pressure, and try to hit the Timbers on the counter, it does exactly the opposite and comes out all guns blazing. Three first-half goals put the Lions in a strong position, and although two Portland strikes after the 80th minute make for an interesting finish, Orlando wins, 3-2. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say this might be getting interesting.
9/27/17: Home vs. New England Revolution
Against a team that soundly beat the Lions, 4-0, not even a full month ago, Jason Kreis knows he needs to do something different. So, he deploys barely recovered from injury Jonathan Spector in between the sticks and slots Joe Bendik up at striker next to Cyle Larin, with Dom Dwyer filling in at Spector’s CB role. Much to everyone’s bemusement, the outlandish ploy works, with Bendik chesting down a long ball from the back for Larin to volley home from a full 30 yards. Spector makes six saves, and the Revolution are left wondering just exactly what hit them.
9/30/17: Home vs. FC Dallas
Riding a four-game winning streak going into a game against a Dallas side in complete free fall, optimism is running high among the Orlando City faithful. That optimism is severely tested, as the Lions are behind by two goals at halftime. However, after a real piss and vinegar halftime talk, the boys come out and play some of their best soccer of the year. Two goals in 20 minutes, combined with some very strange refereeing decisions, see Orlando win the match, 4-2, as Dallas finishes with only nine men. People have begun to murmur about things being “written in the stars” for this Orlando team, as the bottom has fallen out of NYRB at exactly the same time the Lions have put together their winning streak. What a convenient and completely believable world this is.
10/15/17: Home vs. Columbus Crew
Many people are calling this a do-or-die situation, with only two games left in the season and Orlando needing four points to make the playoffs. Unfortunately, things go bad almost instantly, with Kaká being shown a straight red after a video review. While the ref thought he was trying to rip Federico Higuain’s arm out of its socket, he was in fact only shaking his hand and congratulating him on his good form during the season. However, this completely understandable and not at all outrageous mistake lights a fire under the Orlando players, as they thrash Columbus, 3-0. Pundits begin to talk about how this team might just be peaking at the right time, and fans are already getting excited for the playoffs.
10/22/17: Away to Philadelphia Union
The last game of the season against the second-from-bottom Union has fans baying for navy blue and gold blood. “Score six goals!” “Keep 80% of the possession!” “Find a way to turn grass into gold!” These are just some of the things said in the pre-match buildup as we all ride a purple wave of optimistic delirium. And, shy of the very last one, all the above statements come true.
Dwyer scores his first hat trick for the club, the second of which is a completely absurd scorpion kick that Alexi Lalas calls “more beautiful than all eight wonders of the world.” (When told that there are, in fact, only seven wonders of the world, Lalas replies that his beard is, in fact, the eighth.) Orlando City thunders into the playoffs with the rest of MLS both trembling in fear at what strange and idiotic fates might await them, and also questioning the absurd sequence of unlikely circumstances that even got us to this position in the first place.
As for the playoffs, who knows? Perhaps things return to the status quo, with OCSC playing decent enough soccer but not quite able to get the win. Or perhaps this already imaginative situation gets even more out of hand, with Olimpicos, rabona free kick goals, and extra-time thrillers left and right. As for me, I’ll be going to sleep with visions of an unlikely MLS playoff run dancing in my head — that is, until I wake up in a cold sweat after an all-too-real nightmare about a winless summer. I suppose your imagination can only take you so far.