Would any of you have guessed where we would be right now when we all peered deep into the crystal ball a little over a month ago? I will be the first to admit that I most certainly did not. James O’Connor took the helm of the ship yesterday, and in response, I have smashed the previous gazing stone, had someone help me navigate the dark web, contacted a few folks in old areas of Eastern Europe, and procured a new visionary rock.
There are no guarantees, folks, and this is a learning process for all of us. The club was sitting on the precipice of the event horizon, and O’Connor has the arduous task of pulling the squad out of the bowels of hell and back into the promised land. The season is by no means over, but it quickly could be. Let’s take a ride through July and see what may be ahead.
July 7 at Los Angeles Football Club
Orlando starts the month travelling to California to face the new darlings of MLS. This will be the first meeting between the clubs, but here is a little background to possibly help make a prediction: LAFC is currently riding a three-match win streak, with a match to be played away to Houston prior to hosting the Lions at home. The Lions are on an eight-match skid, matching the Colorado Rapids for the longest losing streak of the 2018 season.
Orlando has a new coach, LAFC has players who are away on World Cup duty and who may not be back in time. There might be a few tired legs for LAFC, and this will certainly test O’Connor as his first match will be away, and one of the farthest away trips there is.
Prediction: 0-2 loss.
July 14 vs. Toronto FC
The current MLS champs have rebounded some since our last meeting, and by some I mean just a little. The previous match in May concluded with a 2-1 road loss in Toronto. In fact, four of the past five meetings have ended in a loss for Orlando. This match is where we begin to see the club’s fortunes shift. This is also the first match that Shane O’Neill will be available for selection.
Prediction: 3-1 City victory.
July 18 at Philadelphia Union (U.S. Open Cup)
O’Connor may see the Open Cup as a serious possibility for some hardware this season. As of this writing, it is still way too soon to tell where the focus will be. One thing that is for sure is that Orlando has had the upper hand as of late in this series, ignoring the final match of last season when the Union trounced Orlando City, 6-1.
April of this year saw the teams meet in Philadelphia, and Orlando walked away with three big road points in a 2-0 win, the third of six in the streak before the wheels came off.
Prediction: 2-1 City victory.
July 21 at Columbus Crew
#SaveTheCrew is still a big topic around the league, and the Crew are holding their own currently in the Eastern Conference, although as it stands today, they’ve played about two more matches than the average team in the East.
Surprisingly, this will be the first time these two squads have faced off in 2018. Columbus holds a slight edge in this series, with a 4-2-3 record against the Lions, and certainly has the edge over the past two seasons.
Prediction: 2-2 draw.
July 26 vs. New York City FC
This match will not be played on the tiny pitch. The third installment of this series is finally coming home to Orlando City Stadium. Overall, this is a fairly even series, except for the past three matches. NYCFC has won the past three meetings by a combined score of 8-0, including the latest match, on the tiny pitch, that ended 3-0.
Prediction: 1-0 City victory, late goal.
July 29 at LA Galaxy
This is one of those once a year, let’s trade home field matches. Last year, the Galaxy made their way to sunny Orlando early in the season, and lost, 2-1. In fact, the home side holds a perfect record in this match-up. The Galaxy also added Zlatan Ibrahimovic this season, who has already scored seven goals and notched three assists.
This will be the third match in eight days for the Lions, plus the burden of cross-country travel for the second time in the month. The ship should be sailing much smoother by this point, but the task will be very tough, and coming home with a result is going to be key.
Prediction: 2-1 loss in a tired match for both squads, but the home team trend continues.
July is going to be a big month for the club, possibly one of the biggest to date in its brief history. The Lions are still looking for that missing piece, and now there is a new leader in James O’Connor to help find it. The secondary transfer window opens July 10, but will we see the Lions make any big moves? Only time will tell, but my new crystal ball says this month will be interesting for sure.