Month two of the 2019 MLS season is fast approaching. No frills this month, let’s just get right into the predictions.
April 6 vs. Colorado Rapids
The boys from the Mile High City, including one Tim Howard, will be arriving in Orlando in a week and a half for their once a year meeting with the Lions. The Rapids face Houston this weekend at home, while the Lions are home to face D.C. United. This early in the season, things are still a bit shaky, but if the Lions can continue to play as they did against the New York Red Bulls, things should be really interesting.
Recent Head to Head: The Lions traveled to Denver last season and walked away with three points in one of the few wins of the 2018 season (in fact, it was the most recent road win prior to Saturday’s win in New York). The 2017 meeting in Orlando also ended with the Lions earning three points.
Prediction: 2-0 Lions as they start to really find their feet.
April 13 at Real Salt Lake
A road match heading west, but fear not. RSL is a team that the Lions typically match up well against, but as this is MLS, and this is a road match, anything can happen. Nick Rimando is still the man minding net for RSL, and is a tough keeper to beat. The Lions will also need to be mindful of former USMNT midfielder Kyle Beckerman and Slovakian midfielder Albert Rusnak. The Lions will not be getting any help from travel on the RSL side as they only travel to Seattle the week before, a short hop compared to many away legs in the league.
Recent Head to Head: As with the series with the Rapids, the Lions have fared well playing RSL over the past couple of years. Last year saw the Lions win 3-1 at home for three points, and 2017 saw the Lions take three points from the road trip to Utah.
Prediction: 1-0 Lions as they continue to match up well and really get going.
April 20 vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC
Oh boy, now we are getting far enough out to start making these predictions more and more troubling, especially against teams that the Lions have not beaten. At the time of this writing, Vancouver is floating on the bottom of the Western Conference standings. You would think that travel and heat would be an advantage for the home side, but they may have a not-so-secret weapon with some inside info to help them when they arrive. This match will be a homecoming for former Lions Scott Sutter and PC.
One thing of note, Vancouver will be on short rest for this match, as the Whitecaps are at Chicago on April 12, face LAFC at home on the 17th, then venture to the Sunshine State for this match on the 20th.
Recent Head to Head: The past two seasons have certainly been heavily in favor of the Canadians. The 2018 match in Vancouver saw the Lions lose by the dramatic scoreline of 5-2. The match-up in 2017 saw the Whitecaps leave Orlando with three points after a 2-1 win that saw an own goal from Tommy Redding, a Vancouver goal by former Lion Brek Shea, and a goal by Cyle Larin.
Prediction: Orlando finally gets one on the Whitecaps with a late winner in a 2-1 scoreline.
April 27 at New York City FC
Well, how well will Orlando do against the collective New York teams this season? Will Orlando be able to make New York purple in 2019? Remember that smashing blue (NYCFC) and red (NYRB) together makes purple. The Lions already have one road win in the Big Apple — well, actually New Jersey — and stand a chance of walking away with another road win at the end of April when they face NYCFC on that pitch in that stadium. Again, the Lions will be benefiting from playing through the international breaks as NYCFC will be playing the Lions in their third match in a week after facing D.C. United on April 21, Chicago on the 24th, then the Lions on the 27th.
The Lions will once again be facing former teammate Tony Rocha. It’s also interesting that this will conclude the home-away series against NYCFC for 2019, as the Lions played them in the home opener to a 2-2 draw.
Recent Head to Head: The 2018 season was very much in favor of NYCFC as the pigeons won all three matches, shutting out the Lions in every one. 2017 was a bit better, with the Lions taking two of three, including one in New York.
Prediction: A tough match ending in a 1-1 draw. A point on the road is a point on the road.
The crystal ball is full of rainbows and sunshine right now. It is going to take some time to calibrate it to the new Lions. Hopefully, after April we will have a much more stable view of exactly what this new group is going to bring to the pitch every match day. What are you thoughts for April? Let me know in the comments if you agree, disagree, or care to post your own predictions.