We are now deep into summer in Central Florida. As I write this, I am watching the clockwork afternoon rainstorm pour buckets of water on my tin roof, making the somewhat typical music it creates sound more like mass chaos and the seventh seal breaking right above me.
It is a feeling similar to those that fans have had about Orlando City’s performance over the past few months. Three of 39, a fact that is unavoidable right now. The club has taken three points out of a possible 39 in the last 13 matches, but mathematically is not eliminated from the playoffs yet. That being said, let’s grab that bottle of Bulleit Rye, some Bittermilk old fashioned ingredients, mix, drink, and gaze deep into the crystal ball once again to peer into the future.
Aug. 4 vs. New England Revolution
Can you believe it is match 23 for the Lions and this is the first time the club will be facing our Eastern Conference rivals from New England? The Revs currently sit sixth in the East on 28 points in 21 matches, while the Lions are currently ninth on 22 points in 22 matches. Both teams have given up at least two goals per game in a run of three losses as well.
New England has been lining up in a 4-2-3-1, and likes to utilize the long ball over the top as well as countering quickly. One thing that matches up really well for the Lions is that the Revs like to play down the right, so they will be playing into the Lions’ stronger side, at least in terms of midfield. The trio up top of Teal Bunbury, Juan Agudelo, and Diego Fagundez can be dangerous, but if City plays like it did against the Galaxy and can shore up the back line just a bit, it should match up extremely well against the Revolution.
Prediction: 3-1 City victory.
Aug. 12 at D.C. United
This will be the third meeting between these clubs in 2018. Orlando City opened its 2018 MLS campaign on March 4 against D.C., which ended in a 1-1 draw. The teams met again, this time at the rainy Maryland SoccerPlex, on June 21 in the U.S. Open Cup, again ending the match in a 1-1 draw, with Orlando advancing on penalty kicks. At the time of this writing, D.C. is sitting at the bottom of the East. However, United also has between three and five games in hand on the other Eastern Conference teams. D.C. doesn’t have a short week leading up to the Lions traveling to Audi Field, so both sides will benefit from a full week to prepare.
Oh, and D.C. has that new guy from across the pond, Wayne Rooney, who opened his MLS scoring account this past weekend playing the lone striker position in United’s 4-1-4-1 formation. I certainly hope his hair plugs are ready for the challenge of playing in MLS, and playing the Lions. D.C. has one shutout all season, so goals will come. The Lions just need to make sure they put more in D.C.’s net than D.C. puts in theirs. Again, with a little work on the back line, and playing like they did against the Galaxy, the Lions stand a very good chance of bringing points home.
Prediction: 3-2 City victory.
Aug. 24 vs. Atlanta United
The third and final installment in the 2018 “Battle for the South.” To date this season, Atlanta has outscored Orlando, 6-1, including the 4-0 drubbing the Lions took on June 30 in Atlanta. That match was managed by interim Head Coach Bobby Murphy who brought the boys out in a very interesting 3-4-3 — and by interesting I mean completely mind blown that the team would walk into Atlanta, against a team that has been extremely good this season, and continue to experiment with such a drastic formation change.
There is no easy way to put it: This will be an extremely challenging match, and the one match that the crystal ball is having a really hard time looking into. Atlanta has only lost twice on the road this season. The two teams both use a 4-2-3-1 formation, but the noticeable difference is the offense, namely Josef Martinez, and the high press, heavy pressure, and extremely dangerous counter attack. Let’s hope some of those center backs are healthy. Jonathan Spector and Lamine Sane, I am talking to you, good sirs.
Prediction: 2-0 loss and the woes against Atlanta continue.
After two months of turmoil, long road trips, and multiple short weeks, Orlando finally gets a bit of a scheduling break in August. However, considering where the team is in the standings and that eight of the final 12 matches are against Eastern Conference foes, now is the best time to find something and start collecting three points at every chance given. The crystal ball is predicting a righting of the ship, and the fog clearing on the vision that James O’Connor is bringing to the club. Hang on, folks, it is going to be a fun ride.