Strange as it seems to say, Orlando City SC has won four games on the season. After a rocky start to 2018, the Lions have put it together and found a nice vein of form. But a trip to the Colorado Rapids awaits on Sunday. While a win would be the Lions’ fifth straight — and fourth in four games in the month of April — doing so won’t be an easy task.
While the Rapids sit eighth in the West and only have two wins on the young season, the team is a dangerous one that still has yet to taste defeat at home. With that in mind, here are my three keys to a Lions victory.
A Strong Start
This is something I wrote about last week, and while it feels a bit wrong to toot my own horn, I don’t think I can overstate the importance of starting the way the team did against San Jose. Especially with the team on the road, getting out of the blocks quickly (even if it doesn’t involve scoring a goal in the second minute) is hugely important. Something as simple as having good spells of possession to start the game should go a long way towards settling the team and continuing the wave of confidence that has been building throughout the last few games. Playing from behind is never easy, and even more so on the road at altitude. The last thing OCSC will want is to be chasing the game. Showing up for the first half the way the team did last week should go a long way towards preventing that from happening.
Stop Dominique Badji
The young man from Boston University by way of Senegal is off to a hot start in 2018, with four goals and an assist in the team’s first six games of the season, including a hat trick. The Rapids are undefeated in the two games in which Badji has scored, including a 2-2 opening day draw against Sporting Kansas City that saw Diego Rubio grab a late equalizer for SKC, and a 3-0 demolition job of the Philadelphia Union. While Badji has yet to score in the month of April, there’s no doubting that he knows where the goal is and I’ll be more than happy if the Lions can help continue his scoreless drought. While the Lions have done a good job defending in open play recently, things have been more troublesome during dead-ball situations, something that our own Tom Saunders wrote about earlier in the week. With the threat of Badji looming, OCSC will need to tighten things up during set pieces, while maintaining its good record from open play.
Don’t Let Off the Gas
This is an area which troubled Orlando City last week. Giving up two goals in the final 15 minutes was immensely disappointing, especially given how the Lions had played up until the last quarter of an hour. The team had been in control and playing well, so to nearly give up points after having played a pretty complete game was not exactly the ideal finish to the game. While the team was able to hang on for all three points, if this is a team that wants to fulfill its potential then it will need to learn to protect leads and close out games to the final whistle. Yes, that’s a learning process that can take some time, but there’s no time to start like the present.
Well, there you have it. Those are my keys to victory this weekend. I’d like nothing more than to see the team win five in a row, so hopefully it’s a good trip out to Colorado. Don’t forget that this is a Sunday game that’s set to kick off at 4 p.m. ET. Vamos Orlando!