It’s no secret that it’s been a (yet another) rough summer for Orlando City SC. Since the beginning of June, the Lions’ record is 1-9-0 in league play. So yeah, not good. Saturday’s opponent, the New England Revolution, have had a slightly better go of it with a league record of 2-3-3 during that stretch. However, with both teams in the midst of losing skids, tomorrow’s game is a very important one when it comes to determining the outcome of each team’s season.
Orlando City currently sits in ninth place out of 11 teams in the Eastern Conference, with a record of 7-1-14 and 22 points from 22 games. The team is in the midst of a three-game losing streak in league play, but there were plenty of things to like in two of those three losses, specifically the ones to the Columbus Crew SC and the LA Galaxy. Since James O’Connor took the reins, the team has looked more competent in the attack, scoring more than once in three of its past five MLS games played. Defense has continued to be a major issue for the team though, with no clean sheets kept and opposing teams scoring more than one goal in four of the five.
The Revolution are in marginally better shape, but not by much. For starters, they occupy the sixth and final playoff spot, and are only relegated to the sixth spot by virtue of the fifth-place Montreal Impact having more wins. However, the Revolution have also lost three games in a row, and while the loss to the LA Galaxy required two wild stoppage-time goals to doom the Revs, the two more recent losses to Minnesota United and the New York Red Bulls were more troubling. Plus, while New England is still above the red line, the Philadelphia Union are only one point behind, with the Chicago Fire five points back and both Orlando City and Toronto FC six points back.
As far as Orlando is concerned, there is still reason for hope. As I said before, the team has looked better and has a couple winnable games that it could use to jumpstart a playoff push. Again, the team is only six points out of the playoffs and a win tomorrow would have the Lions breathing right down the back of New England’s neck. Make no mistake though, time is very much running out and there’s a sense among a good number of fans that if the team doesn’t start winning now then the season is going to slip away. Publicly, no one involved with the team has spoken about any pressure being felt, but surely they can feel the walls beginning to close in. And while there is still time and the team isn’t — and shouldn’t be — in desperation mode yet, things are getting about as close to that status as they can.
New England obviously has a little bit more room to breathe, but surely the Revs are beginning to feel the heat as well. Chicago is on a five-game losing streak, and while Philadelphia and Orlando have had their share of struggles, in the blink of an eye New England could find itself looking up at any one of those teams. Toronto, meanwhile, has won twice in a row and is showing signs of heating up and could bypass the Revolution if things don’t fall into place soon.
Basically, this is a big game. It’s one that both teams will certainly feel like they can win and it comes at a critical time in the season for each club. For Orlando, it would provide the obviously needed points and also help to dispel any creeping notions about some sort of weird summer curse against the Lions. Plus, the next game up is against a very beatable D.C. United, creating the opportunity to get not one but two momentum-building wins.
For New England, a win would keep the Revs’ heads above water and help put a little more distance between them and the chasing pack. Considering the Revolution’s next three games are against Philadelphia, D.C., and Philadelphia, they have a real chance to pull away from the non-playoff places. Conversely, if things go badly they could easily find themselves six or more points back and the important stretch of games starts with Orlando.
I like the Lions’ odds in this one. The team has figured out where the goal is, and while keeping the ball out of the back of the purple and gold’s net has proven difficult, the team has looked much more creative in the attack in recent weeks. Hopefully I’m not proven wrong and you’ll be able to find out tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. ET at Orlando City Stadium. Vamos Orlando.