With a mere six matches to go, the Eastern Conference playoff picture is a chaotic mess at the moment, with only five points separating Orlando City SC in ninth with D.C. United in fifth. This past weekend against rival Atlanta, Orlando could have vaulted into a much better position, but that team from up north once again proved that success in this league can be defined by taking advantage of the opportunities that are presented to you — something that Orlando has not been able to do much of this season.
If the club is going to make the playoffs, it is important to bring three points home from San Jose. Does looking back at the four previous matches tell us anything about the Lions’ chances this Saturday? Here’s what has transpired so far in the all-time series:
2015 at San Jose
The first meeting between these two clubs in the Lions MLS era ended in a 1-1 draw. Do names like Tally Hall, Rafael Ramos, Darwin Ceren, and Brek Shea ring a bell? They were among the players who have since departed that took part in that first meeting. Shea was sent off with a straight red after this challenge in the 51st minute.
Kaká scored a penalty kick in the 64th minute after Cyle Larin was clobbered in the box chasing down a fantastic distribution from Tally Hall. Unfortunately for the Lions, just a few minutes later, San Jose was awarded a penalty after a hard challenge by Ceren on a San Jose corner kick. Chris Wondolowski buried the spot kick, netting his 100th goal. That was it for the scoring and the teams split the points.
2016 at Orlando
In front of 37,194 people at Camping World Stadium, these two sides once again split the points — this time 2-2. The teams were scoreless at the half for the second straight year, with San Jose earning three yellow cards in the first 45 minutes. The first substitution for the Lions came in the 62nd minute, as Julio Baptista came in for Luke Boden. Four minutes later, Adrian Winter sent a fantastic corner kick to “head master” Seb Hines to make it 1-0. Chad Barrett tied it up in the 85th minute for San Jose, but the game was not over yet. The Beast did this in the 91st minute and it appeared the Lions would capture a dramatic win in the first home match after the Pulse nightclub shooting.
Unfortunately, the Quakes equalized at the death as Shea Salinas tied the match in the fourth minute of stoppage time. Orlando players collapsed on the field after the final whistle, gutted that they couldn’t hang on.
Despite the late dropped points, it was a massive night for everyone involved and the city itself, as it started a long road of healing and showing the world what “Orlando Strong” means.
2017 at San Jose
In another memorable match, the Lions played the Earthquakes to another 1-1 draw, with another familiar name securing the point for each side. Starters for the Lions included Giles Barnes, Luis Gil, PC (who was Orlando’s Man of the Match), Jose Aja, Scott Sutter, and Joe Bendik. Similar to the two previous match-ups, the clubs went into halftime scoreless. Kaká and Carlos Rivas subbed into the match in the 63rd minute. The match was back and forth, with goalkeepers Bendik and David Bingham keeping their respective sides in the match. Then, in the 80th minute, PC sent a low cross through the box that Rivas calmly put into the lower right corner of the goal, rather than 40 rows high.
In a broken record type of ending, Wondolowski tied the match a mere three minutes later to help secure a point for the home side in the waning minutes of the match.
2018 at Orlando
In the seventh match of the 2018 season, the Lions put together their fourth straight victory in a string of wins that included opponents like the New York Red Bulls, Philadelphia Union, and Portland Timbers. The Lions were able to claim a 3-2 victory — the first win in the series by either side after draws in the first three consecutive meetings. Chris Mueller got the Lions on the scoreboard early, burying a shot in just the second minute of play.
Cash then assisted Sacha in the 35th minute, and the teams headed into halftime with the Lions leading 2-0. The second half started much like the first with Orlando looking in control, and all but guaranteeing three points with a 69th-minute goal from Dom Dwyer. San Jose certainly raised the blood pressure of everyone in Orlando City Stadium by scoring a pair of goals by Florian Jungwirth in the 78th and 90th minutes, but the Lions were able to hold on and secure three points at home.
Historically, this series is certainly filled with goals, and a ton of late excitement, but fans of Orlando City SC are certainly used to that. The Lions have yet to not earn points playing the Quakes, and hopefully this year is no different. Although the Lions have visited San Jose twice and drew both times, this trip requires more than that if they want to remain in the hunt.
San Jose started to dig out of a mini slump with its demolition of Vancouver on Saturday, in which the Earthquakes set MLS records for shot attempts (43) and shots on goal (19), while holding 75% (!) of the possession and passing at a 90% rate.
That performance notwithstanding, my money is on the Lions throwing everything they have at bringing those three points home and continuing their undefeated run against the Earthquakes in league play.