For 2019, we know that Orlando City has 17 home matches on the calendar for the MLS season. The Lions play each of their Eastern Conference rivals twice — one at home and then one away — and each of the Western Conference teams once, with half of the those matches at home. So how would you dissect the current calendar to find the five matches that you should highlight, underline, star, and clear everything else around to make sure you in Orlando City Stadium? Maybe this list will help.
5. The Lion comes to Visit
It was simply a matter of time, and that time will finally be upon us on Friday, May 24, at 7 p.m. when the Los Angeles Galaxy come to town. This will be the fifth installment of the Galaxy versus the Lions in MLS regular season play, but this will be the first meeting of The Lion versus the Lions in Orlando City Stadium. That’s right, Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be bringing his massive presence to face City on a Friday night, televised stage. This series has certainly provided fireworks every season. In the four meetings between these clubs, a total of 20 goals have been scored (11 for Orlando and nine for LA).
With each team holding two wins in the series, and the home team holding the winning advantage to date, history bodes well for the Lions. This will also most likely be the last chance to see Zlatan in Orlando, outside of the MLS All-Star Game.
4. Welcome to MLS
Just five days prior to the LA Galaxy match, the newest expansion club in MLS, and our newest Eastern Conference rival, FC Cincinnati, will make its way to Orlando for the first of two matches in the 2019 MLS season. We still do not know to much about FC Cincinnati, except they do have a talented MLS veteran striker in Fanendo Adi, who is also the first Designated Player for the debutante club. Always good to roll out the welcome mat for the new kids on the block. May 19 at 3 p.m. looks like a great afternoon to introduce our new friends to The Wall (because the enemy of my enemy is my friend, and FC Cincinnati will certainly grow their rivalry with the Columbus Crew).
3. The Tackle, the Cross, the Goal part II
Sunday, March 31 at 6:30 p.m., D.C. United comes to town. The end of the Lions’ last match against D.C. was one that is still being debated and used as meme material today. The video isn’t that hard to find, but for fear of triggering too many people, I will save you from reliving the moments here. Looking at the entirety of this meeting in season play, it is a very even match-up, with each team holding four wins and there being one draw. D.C. holds the recent edge, as the Lions have not beaten them since June 1, 2017.
The last meeting was a roller coaster of insanity, even before the last 30 seconds. An own goal, a red card for Cristian Higuita at the beginning of the second half, Dom Dwyer pulling the club level with only 10 men on the pitch, and then the run of play that we never want to watch ever again. There are a number of Lions who I am sure will be looking to rectify that day.
2. Opening Match of 2019
For the fifth straight season, the Lions open the MLS season by facing off at home. For the third time, that opponent will be New York City FC. To date, these two clubs have faced off 11 times in MLS play, with NYCFC holding the slight advantage at five wins, two draws, and four losses. Current history shows that NYCFC has been the better team, winning all three matches between the clubs in 2018, and shutting Orlando out in all three matches. In fact, the last time Orlando got a result against NYCFC was April 23, 2017, a 2-1 road win for Orlando on the back of a brace by Cyle Larin.
This will be a homecoming for former Lion Tony Rocha, and some of the big names are gone from NYCFC like David Villa, Tommy McNamara, and Jo Inge Berget. This will also be the beginning of the new era for the Lions, as the club begins 2019 with all eyes on them. The opening whistle will usher in new expectations, both from the fans and the Club itself if the build up to this match is even half the intensity it seems.
1 . The Champs
Let’s not mix words here, Atlanta United are the 2018 MLS Cup Champions. I am a bit old school when it comes to silverware and football in that I personally see the Supporters’ Shield as the more important trophy to have in your case, but America loves its playoffs, and Atlanta ran the gauntlet, survived the playoffs, including beating the Supporters’ Shield winning New York Red Bulls, and won the last official MLS match of the year. They are also our rivals.
Orlando City is winless against Atlanta, having played six times to date in MLS play, with two draws and four losses. Atlanta had the better side last season, winning all three match-ups. It could be another homecoming for a former Orlando City player as Brek Shea was signed as a free agent as 2018 came to a close. Miguel Almiron will have been long gone, and we might know if Pity Martinez and Florentin Pogba are worth the hype. This match also takes place deep enough in the season that the Lions should well be comfortable in their new skin, and a solid foundation should be set. Did I mention this is also an ESPN prime time match-up, on a Friday night, at 8 p.m. It is also the seventh to last match for the season.
The 2019 season posts many interesting story lines, and this just highlights what should be the five home matches that should not be missed. To be honest, we should all show up to every home match, but, if you find yourself facing one of those inconceivable choices of do I go to the match or do I...
- Go to the hospital for the birth of my first child (you really only need to see that once, right)? Sorry, ladies, you don’t really have a choice here as when it is time, it is time.
- Attend your child’s birthday party (I mean, maybe the first, but I think missing a few is fine or take turns with someone)?
- Celebrate my wedding anniversary (can’t you do that at the stadium)?
There are always a few things that come up, life is funny that way, but these are the ones I will certainly not miss.