The wait is almost over, friends. After having to wait and watch from sidelines, it is almost time to stand and cheer from the sidelines, from The Wall, and from wherever else you find yourself on game day. Optimism feels high, and I know we, the fandom, are collectively ready for the 2019 MLS season to begin.
The Orlando City Lions 3.0 are a mere four days — just 96 hours — away from beginning their campaign for 2019 glory. It’s the fifth straight year beginning at home, and the third time against New York City FC‘s boys in blue. I’m writing this from 26,000 feet above the East Texas plains, heading to the Dallas/Fort Worth area for business, and it seemed a fitting time to begin again what I started last season by looking at the month ahead. Without further ado, here is what the Lions have ahead of them for the month of March.
March 2 vs. New York City FC
Defend the Fortress will be the name of the game. Orlando City came out of the Orlando City Invitational having played New York City FC in the first match, culminating in a 2-1 victory for the Lions. Again, this was preseason, but these invitationals are meant to give players and coaches a chance to tweak line ups and give consideration to players. That being said, they shouldn’t necessarily stand as a fair representative of things you should see in the regular season.
NYCFC is missing a few notable names from the past few seasons, like David Villa, Tommy McNamara and Jo Inge Berget, but it will be a homecoming for former Lion Tony Rocha.
Recent Head to Head: In 2017 the Lions took two of three versus NYCFC, but 2018 saw the boys in blue take nine points from the Lions, and shut them out all three matches.
Prediction: 2-1 Orlando City in front of The Wall.
March 9 at Chicago Fire
It’s the first road match of the season, and it is a pretty easy trip, all things considered. It could have been a West Coast swing, or it could have been to the frozen tundra that is currently Canada, but the schedule algorithms were very polite. Chicago finished 10th in the East last season, just four points ahead of the Lions. The two squads had identical home records (6-7-4), but the Fire were able to get four draws on the road to the Lions’ none.
Recent Head to Head: in 2017, the Lions drew Chicago in a scoreless match at home then lost later at Chicago by 4-0. The only thing that changed in 2018 was that the Lions lost at home to the Fire, 2-1, then lost again the Fire in Chicago, 4-0.
Prediction: 1-1 draw.
March 16 vs. Montreal Impact
The second home match of the season comes against the Orlando’s Eastern Conference rival from the frigid north, the Montreal Impact. The Impact, like the Lions, missed the playoffs in 2018, although Montreal only missed it by four points. This will be another solid test for the Lions as the Impact have consistently been a very difficult test for Orlando. The Lions were held scoreless by the Impact in both meetings last season. Similar to the Lions as well, the Impact made a pretty drastic shift in player personnel over the off-season.
Matteo Mancuso and Quincy Amarikwa are gone, but Montreal did pick up Maxi Urruti in the off season. If the back line isn’t clicking by now, bad things will happen.
Series Record: In 2017, the teams drew the first meeting, 3-3, and then Montreal won their home leg, 2-1. In 2018 the Impact won both, 3-0 and 2-0.
Prediction: 2-1 City.
March 23 at New York Red Bulls
The Lions faced off against the Red Bulls during preseason and fared well, but that was preseason. The Red Bulls, the 2018 Supporters Shield winners (and you should all know how I feel about the difference between the Shield and the Cup) will be looking to keep pushing forward and defend their hardware. I am also sure they are looking to position themselves as number one in the East again to assure themselves home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Tyler Adams is shipped off to Germany, Aurelien Collin and Carlos Rivas both had their options declined, and Tommy Redding is out of contract. Amro Tarek will be facing his former teammates (what’s left of them) for the first time.
Series Record: The home team has won each match in the 2017 and 2018 seasons; however, the Red Bulls hold the slight advantage in goals scored, 7-6.
Prediction: 2-1 NYRB (road points will come, just not here).
March 31 vs D.C. United
Hopefully this is the last time I will have to write this as it pains me every time. I do not lay blame, I have forgiven those involved, but I do believe the team will be looking for redemption. The last time these two clubs faced off, it was that match, that tackle, that cross, and that header, and those VAR decisions, which seemed to be a microcosm of the entire season for the Lions.
D.C. had a number of exits, like Kevin Ellis, Kofi Opare, Yamil Asad, and Darren Mattocks, but they will bringing former Lion Earl Edwards, Jr. back to Orlando with that Rooney guy.
Series Record: Possibly one of the few very positive series records over the past couple seasons, with Orlando having the edge, 2-1-1. OCSC took both wins in 2017, drew at home to D.C. in 2018 and then that “thing” mentioned above happened in the home leg for United.
Prediction: 3-2 City.
Whoa there, Bearded Guy. Are you seriously thinking that the team that finished dead last in the East is going to start its 2019 campaign with 10 points out of 15 possible in March? Yes I am! The guy wearing all black, listening to Morrissey in a dark closet, isn’t allowed to give his input to this article. I have been inspired watching the team play this preseason (the little we have been allowed to see), and I have full confidence that the team has the quality to do just what I stated above.
If not, then I will adjust according once reality sets in and the full picture has been presented to me. Until then, I can only go with what I know.
Hear the drummer(s) get wicked!
(Please note that sweet Flava Flav color combo.)