Can you remember a more hectic, heart-pounding, energized month than this past July? The month leading up to the club’s first MLS match might rank up there, but as far as a month of play, I cannot think of a month filled with more raw feelings and emotional roller coasters than this one. Without further ado, lets jump right in and see how I did with my predictions for July.
July 3 vs. Philadelphia Union and July 6 at Philadelphia Union
Prediction: As much as I want to say the Lions do well on the road, the crystal ball is convincing me to be much more pragmatic. I see this head-to-head as each home club capitalizing, so the Lions lose in Philly, but gain three points at home. I see both matches being very close, almost to the point of seeing the resurrection of the Cardiac Cats.
A tale of two matches is the simplest way to describe this very random scheduling phenomenon. Head Coach James O’Connor fielded a fairly recognizable starting XI for the home match. After looking like the clubs would go into halftime all square, Robin Jansson was shown red right before the whistle. The Lions finished the match with only nine men on the field after Sacha Kljestan was shown a red card in the 67th minute.
For the second match, O’Connor not only changed virtually every player in the starting XI, but changed the formation as well. The game was tied with 10 minutes remaining when Santiago Patino subbed on for Dom Dwyer, and his first touch put the ball in the back of the net. Just when it looked like the Lions were going to come home with three points, two were ripped away as Kacper Przybylko scored at the beginning of stoppage time.
July 10 vs. New York City FC (U.S. Open Cup)
Prediction: In a tough match, OCSC 2-1 over the boys in blue.
Actual: 1-1 (5-4) in a moment for the ages.
Well, I think I predicted this pretty well — not correctly, but close enough. What a magical evening. To be honest, my mind is still blown at what happened. Here are the pictures and all of the excitement, anxiety, and wizardry from Orlando’s close win against NYCFC.
July 13 vs. Columbus Crew
Prediction: 3-2 OCSC.
Actual: 1-0 Orlando City in a nail biter.
Still at home, and most likely still buzzing from the U.S. Open Cup match just a few nights prior, O’Connor brought the club out in his preferred 4-3-3, but with some tweaking to the personnel. The Crew had more possession and shots and it looked like the Lions wouldn’t be able to hold on at times. Then Benji Michel scored his first MLS goal in the 84th minute of the match and the Lions managed to secure all three points. Unfortunately, Dom Dwyer saw a red card in the 92nd minute for an elbow.
July 18 at Portland Timbers
Prediction: 2-1 OCSC.
Actual: 1-1 draw on the road.
I had a heart attack during this one. Will Johnson subbed on for Alex De John in the 12th minute after De John had a nasty collision in the box and was knocked unconscious. It was a scary moment for everyone, but he was able to leave the pitch under his own power. Patino scored another goal for the club right before halftime. Portland dominated the stats for the match and, as we have seen before, was able to score in the 82nd. It was another two points lost on the road, but taking a point from a place where few are able to secure points is worth a small amount of praise.
July 21 vs. New York Red Bulls
Prediction: 3-2 OCSC in rather dramatic fashion.
Actual: 1-0 NYRB win against the Lions in Exploria Stadium.
It was a back-and-forth match that had everyone wanting to go home and start a fire. To say that the Man of the Match for the Red Bulls was the woodwork would have been the easiest vote ever. It might be easier to tell you which Lions didn’t hit the goal posts rather than tell you the ones who did. The Lions had more shots, more passes, and more possession than the Red Bulls, but just could not find the back of the net.
July 27 at New England Revolution
Prediction: 3-1 OCSC.
Actual: 4-1 Revolution win as the Lions were dominated from start to finish.
This game is one we all want to forget about. Who would have honestly known that Bruce Arena would come in and lead the Revolution on an 11-game streak with no losses, including this match? It also doesn’t help to go down a goal, on the road, in the third minute of play. Some players certainly looked a little tired and New England took full advantage to crush the travelling Lions.
I predicted 15 points and that the Lions would advance in the U.S. Open Cup. Orlando managed just five points but did get the job done in the tournament. Only one predicted outcome was correct (the Columbus win), although much lower scoring than I anticipated.
Now it’s August and it isn’t going to get any easier for the club as O’Connor and the Lions try to make that final push for a playoff spot and punch a ticket to the finals of the U.S. Open Cup. Take this to heart though, with two months left in the 2019 season, Orlando City has already surpassed its 2018 point total.