August is nearly here, as are the heat and joyous cries of Thor (thunderstorms) every afternoon. July has been a wild month, which we will review soon, and August stands to be equally mind blowing. Could we see two U.S. Open Cup matches in Orlando this month? Can we finally put some criticism to rest? I have retired that sketchy crystal ball and will be predicting from the hip this month as I wait for Baba Yaga to deliver me a new one.
Aug. 3 vs. FC Dallas
The once-a-year battle with Dallas will open up another hectic month for the Lions. A few of the Lions taking part in All-Star matches will be the only ones on short rest, namely Nani and Benji Michel, and this is vitally important considering the match after this one. Dallas is currently sitting sixth in the Western Conference, and has only played four matches in July, claiming seven out of 12 points.
Recent Head to Head: The past two meetings have seen a Dallas victory last season and a scoreless draw in 2017. In fact, Dallas is unbeaten against the Lions in MLS play and the Lions have yet to register a goal against the Hoops in regular season play.
Prediction: The Lions will finally score against Dallas in a match that sees a bit more of the offensive spark in a 2-1 victory for Orlando.
Aug. 6 vs. Atlanta United FC (U.S. Open Cup)
This could possibly be the biggest, or second biggest depending on the outcome, match the Lions have this season. This is the semifinal match for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, and the Lions will host our bitter rivals (yes, I said it) Atlanta United. The Five Stripes, currently second in the East, might be having to make a difficult choice between focusing on MLS play or a run at the cup. The Lions, currently sitting ninth in the East, might need to focus solely on the cup. Exploria Stadium is bound to be the loudest it has ever been this season, based on the last Open Cup match held there a few weeks ago. If the Lions win, and the Portland Timbers win their match against Minnesota United, the final will be here in Orlando.
Recent Head to Head: Orlando has yet to beat Atlanta, and we all know it.
Prediction: OCSC pushes Atlanta’s road loss record to seven after a huge 3-2 win.
Aug. 10 at Toronto FC
Toronto has had a bit of a roller coaster season to date, starting the season hot and cooling off a bunch. But it has seen a return to form as of late. Ironically, the match right before its run of bad results was against Orlando City. Jozy Altidore is back with the club and has produced a few insane goals recently. With Toronto just above Orlando at the time of this writing, this will be a critical match for the Lions in their chase for one of the final playoff spots. It will be a road match on short rest, but the Lions have already shown they can handle it and come home with points.
Recent Head to Head: Earlier this season, TFC beat the Lions here in Orlando, 2-0. Last season, the clubs split the matches, with each home side winning 2-1.
Prediction: I’m seeing a 1-1 draw with the Lions bringing a point back home.
Aug. 14 vs. Sporting Kansas City
If the Lions are still hovering around the last few playoff spots, this is one of those critical matches to help push the club closer to the promised land. Sporting KC is currently 10th in the West and has done well on the road, if you consider draws on the road doing well. Considering we continue to talk about how difficult it is to get road wins in MLS, I would say Kansas City has done pretty well with a current record of 2-5-4 on the road.
Recent Head to Head: Over the past four seasons, the home side is undefeated. SKC won the match in 2018 with a 1-0 scoreline and the teams finished in a 2-2 draw in 2017.
Prediction: The home team trend continues with OCSC winning 2-0.
Aug. 17 at Minnesota United FC
The club will head north to visit former coach Adrian Heath and Minnesota United. The Loons, currently fifth in the West, will be a very tough match for Orlando. Although Heath may not recognize many names and faces from the squad he headed up, he will certainly be very familiar with Orlando City Head Coach James O’Connor. The Loons also have one of the better home records in MLS this season at 6-1-4. The only home loss was to the Philadelphia Union on June 2. The Lions will come into this match after another run of short rest between matches, but thankfully so will Minnesota. The Lions will certainly need to find a way to contain Darwin Quintero, but also unleash some offense.
Recent Head to Head: The clubs have met twice before and the Loons have walked away from both of those meetings with all three points.
Prediction: The Lions struggle on the road and fall 2-0 to the Loons.
Aug. 23 vs. Atlanta United FC
Atlanta has looked vulnerable this season and the Lions will have some recent history to leverage in match preparation. The big question ahead will be the number of matches played and how each team handles the Open Cup match. One of these squads will be looking at preparing for the Open Cup championship soon after. This will be a match with implications both in regular season standings as well as squad rotation and prep for the U.S. Open Cup.
Recent Head to Head: Do we need to repeat this? Just for honesty, Atlanta has won the last four meetings between the clubs.
Prediction: I’m rolling with a 2-1 OCSC victory because I feel good about August.
Aug. 28/29 vs./at ?
I’ll just leave this here as a place holder, but my gut feeling is OCSC vs. Portland in Orlando, which the Lions will win 3-2.
Aug. 31 at San Jose Earthquakes
It gets more and more difficult to predict matches when there are so many packed into one month, and the variables are wild and shifting based on certain match results. Just reread everything above and realize how many scenarios are at play by this match. San Jose is currently fourth in the West, tied with the LA Galaxy on points but with one fewer win. The Lions will be tired for sure by this point, so I would not even guess at lineups. San Jose will have a week off, and the Lions might, but I honestly hope not.
Recent Head to Head: In MLS regular season play, the Quakes have never defeated the Lions. Orlando beat the Quakes last year at home, 3-2, and every meeting prior to that ended in a draw.
Prediction: I’m predicting a 2-2 draw for the Lions on the road.
Here we are again folks, staring down the barrel of another seven- to eight-match month. In case math isn’t your forte, that is around an average of fours days between matches, depending upon the outcome of the USOC match. It is a whole lot of Western Conference teams with a few Eastern Conference opponents sprinkled in.
What are your thoughts on August? Let us know in the comments below, and hopefully I will be updating this article next week to add that eighth match for sure.