As I openly admitted in the April prediction piece, the crystal ball may have some calibration issues in regards to the 2019 Orlando City Lions. Considering that there are not any corner store calibration centers, and the receipt burst into flames as soon as the gypsy I bartered with to purchase the current crystal ball closed the back door on the old wooden pull cart, I am stuck with needing to calibrate this thing actively as the season progresses.
Without further ado, let’s dive in and see if April contained good predictions, horrible guesses, or just a bunch of rainbows in the dark.
April 6 vs. Colorado Rapids
Prediction: 2-0 City.
Actual: 4-3 City.
In what was an absolute roller coaster of a match, the Cardiac Cats came roaring back, after the Lions, once again, fell behind early. Kei Kamara put the Rapids up in the ninth minute. The match took a major turn just 20 minutes later as the home team was able to put two goals on the board in under two minutes from Nani and Tesho Akindele. The visitors tied the match in the 61st minute, then went ahead by one in the 71st. Chris Mueller came into the match in the 79th minute, and just 60-ish seconds later scored on a great pass from Akindele and the match was once again tied. With time ticking down, and the Lions certainly looking the more dangerous side, a Ruan cross into the box was defended with an arm, and the ref awarded a penalty that Nani buried in the back of the net.
I predicted the three points, but had no idea it would come like that.
April 13 at Real Salt Lake
Prediction: 1-0 Lions.
Actual: 2-1 RSL.
It was an odd match for sure. The starting lineup was heavily critiqued and questioned as soon as it was released and was further questioned for days after the match. This match also stood as the first time the Lions had lost to RSL. In case you have blocked the memory already, or it is just a little hazy, the Lions started the match with all three of their Designated Players on the bench. Dom Dwyer and Nani were double subbed into the match in the 56th minute, and Josué Colmán subbed on in the 77th. Nani was able to pull the Lions back to within one in the 81st minute, but it wasn’t enough.
So the crystal ball saw the Lions’ scoreline correctly, but missed the opponents.
April 20 vs. Vancouver Whitecaps
Prediction: 2-1 City.
Actual: 1-0 City.
Here is a little snippet from the prediction piece:
“Prediction: Orlando finally gets one on the Whitecaps with a late winner in a 2-1 scoreline.”
I want to focus your attention on the late winner aspect of that predictive sentence and keep it in mind as we walk through the Readers Digest version of the match. Not only did this match see a return to the starting XI for Dwyer and Nani, but also saw a slight shift in formation with James O’Connor bringing the squad out in a 4-3-3. It was a match that the Lions were certainly the more dominant team, with Vancouver setting themselves up to defend and use quick counters. Orlando City held over 60% of the possession, and out-shot the Whitecaps almost three to one, but waited until very late to put the match away. Remember that quote from above? Well, in the 88th minute Ruan drove down the right side and sent a cutback pass towards the top of the box. Sacha Kljestan met the ball and struck it well, only to have it take a slight deflection off of a leaping Nani and into the back of the net.
The scoreline was a bit off, but the crystal ball nailed that last-minute winner.
April 27 at New York City FC
Prediction: 1-1 draw.
Actual: 1-1 draw.
I am still trying to figure out why the MLS scheduling AI felt it appropriate to have the home/away series with NYCFC complete so early in the season. It was exactly eight weeks ago that Orlando City kicked off its 2019 season at home against the Pigeons in a 2-2 draw. Orlando started looking to somewhat bunker and counter on the tiny pitch in the Big Apple. For the first time all season, the Lions scored first, on rebound that Nani pounced on and slotted far post. NYCFC came out the more organized and hungry in the second half, and equalized early in second. Dom missing an absolute sitter hurt, but taking road points is taking road points.
The visions are beginning to get a bit clearer, I think. March and April were tough, but good. The players appear to be finding their feet more and more each week. Some very tough sections of the schedule are looming on the horizon, and it will be interesting to see just how divine these divinations truly are. I predicted 10 points in April, and the Lions will end the month with just seven. If the squad can secure seven points per month, that would be 49 points by the end of the season. Just a couple extra points here and there and the Lions would get enough points to finish the season above the red line.