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Orlando City Is Exactly Where It Needs to Be

Despite a shaky season so far, Orlando City is exactly where it needs to be.

MLS: Orlando City SC at Vancouver Whitecaps Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

The Lions have had one of the most inconsistent seasons of any team in MLS this season. But even despite the constant shifts in momentum, Orlando City is exactly where it needs to be to contend for a playoff spot.

Through 14 matches, Orlando City has picked up 19 points with a 6-7-1 record. That record has placed the Lions sixth in the Eastern Conference, which is just above the playoff line. With the array of different lineups and injured players throughout the season, a 6-7-1 record is not as bad as you would think. Joe Bendik has had numerous back lines to work with and it’s been difficult to find an effective replacement striker for Dom Dwyer, who has struggled with injuries.

Only four points separate Orlando from the New York Red Bulls and the New England Revolution but those spots in the standings could change by month’s end. Also, Orlando only holds a one-point advantage on both the Chicago Fire and the Philadelphia Union. If you remember, Orlando lost to the Chicago Fire but was able to defeat Philadelphia on the road earlier this year.

Orlando City still plays five games against the aforementioned teams with two of those games coming against the Revs. Of those five games, the Lions play two at home against Philadelphia and New England, which will end up being crucial games that the Lions must win. The logic I am using here is that Orlando still has ample opportunity to move up the pecking order in the Eastern Conference. With so many matches remaining (20 to be exact), Orlando has plenty of time to turn things back around with just a few wins but, and there always is a but, Orlando must win crucial games in the second half of the year, and here are a few I would like to highlight.

Atlanta United, June 30

After a home loss to Atlanta United, a win on the road could give Orlando players and the coaching staff confidence that they can contend with the upper powers of the Eastern Conference. Atlanta is currently first in the conference with 30 points, so taking three points or even a draw in that road match would do wonders for the Lions.

New York City FC, July 26

Again, this is a game Orlando City needs to take advantage of at home. The Lions have played their rivals from the north twice this season, both at Yankee Stadium. It could be yet another confidence builder if Orlando City can take points against another Eastern Conference superpower.

Chicago Fire, Sept. 16

After dropping all three points against the Fire at Orlando City Stadium, the Lions basically have to salvage something from this game with the two clubs being so close in the standings. Even with a tie Chicago would still own a significant advantage over Orlando with a victory already in hand, so a win for Orlando at Toyota Park in September will be one of the most significant games of the season for the Lions for sure.

New York Red Bulls, Oct. 28

In the season finale, who knows how close these teams could be to each other in the standings? Orlando has already defeated Red Bulls in a 4-3 thriller so a win at Red Bull Arena could again push the tides in the right direction for Jason Kreis’ squad. The idea of the game potentially being in a cold-weather environment is challenging, but if Orlando City can get over that obstacle, the Lions could very well be in the playoffs for the first time.

Again, Orlando City has ample opportunities to help itself in the race for its first playoff run in MLS, but the Lions could also shoot themselves in the foot if they don’t take advantage. One thing the Lions definitely do not want is to have other teams decide their fate, so winning crucial games against all teams, be it top-level teams or bottom-feeders, will be crucial.

With a good portion of stars like Dom Dwyer, Jonathan Spector and Lamine Sané coming back to full health, the Lions are still in a good position to make the playoffs come November. The current losing streak is a tough pill to swallow, but once Orlando gets back on the right track, it could be a team that surprises MLS fans everywhere.

Think I missed any important games or believe the Lions are not where they need to be? Let me know in the comments below.