Friends, there are four matches left in the 2019 MLS regular season. It is starting to hit pretty hard that the season is burning through its last embers. The only remaining question is what chance does Orlando City SC have to toss a log on the fire and finally claim victory in ending the regular season above the red line?
Well, let’s see what the crystal ball, two fingers of Bulleit Rye on a large rock, and a belly full of misplaced angst see as we peer forward in time towards either redemption or misanthropy.
Sept. 14 vs. New England Revolution
This match will certainly stand as the first of four must-win fixtures. New England is currently above the red line, but only four points ahead of Orlando in the standings. The Revs are on form at the moment though, having only lost two matches in their last 17 fixtures, with a record of 8-2-7 over that stretch, although their most recent match was a loss last night at New York City FC.
Recent Head to Head: The Revs have had the better of the series in recent history, with the exception of the U.S. Open Cup match this year. In 2018, the teams drew in Orlando, 3-3, and the Revs won at home, 2-0. In 2019, the Lions won the Open Cup match between these clubs 2-1 in extra time, but lost 4-1 at Gillette Stadium earlier just a couple months back.
Prediction: 2-1 Lions.
Sept. 21 at Houston Dynamo
Assuming that the Lions are still in the hunt, this match will serve as “must win on the road match No. 1.” Houston is in a similar position to the Lions as the Dynamo are looking at the playoffs from below the red line and their hill is even tougher to climb. Houston’s current form stands in stark contrast to New England’s, having only two wins in their last 16 matches, and an overall record during that stretch of 2-12-2. By the time this match is played, their is a chance that the Dynamo could be on the verge of elimination from the playoffs.
Recent Head to Head: In 2018, the teams drew 0-0 at Exploria Stadium. In 2017 the Dynamo pounced on the Lions to the tune of a 4-0 victory.
Prediction: 2-1 Lions.
Sept. 29 at FC Cincinnati
Let’s just go ahead and be positive that the club is still chasing that playoff spot. This would make the Lions’ first away trip to face FC Cincinnati “must win road match No. 2.” FCC has had a rough first season in MLS. By the time September rolled around, they were already eliminated from playoff contention, sitting on only 18 points. Looking back over the same time frame as we have for the previous clubs the Lions will face, FCC’s form is very similar to Houston’s with only two wins in the past 16 matches, and an overall form of 2-13-1. There is one thing to keep in mind with a match like this though. Even though they are out of the playoffs, you can bet this club will be giving its fans reasons to believe in 2020, and that makes this match a little more dangerous than the strict numbers show.
Recent Head to Head: In the only meeting so far in MLS, the Lions fell behind early, but came back to win 5-1 at home.
Prediction: 3-1 Lions.
Oct. 6 vs. Chicago Fire
Decision Day 2019 and the Lions could be making the playoffs for the first time, or be on the outside looking in for the fifth time. Every single match will be a 4 p.m. kickoff, and the nervous energy around the league will be buzzing. Chicago is currently sitting just below the Lions in the Eastern Conference, with both having played 30 matches. Over their last 16 matches, the Fire hold a record of 4-7-5. Good news for city fans is that the Fire have only one away win so far this season, and have failed to win 26 of their last 27 away matches. This is a game that could final day of the 2019 MLS regular season special or will write the final chapter on a rebuilding 2019 season toward what we hope is a brighter 2020.
Recent Head to Head: Scary note here as the Lions have not beaten the Fire in recent history. In the first meeting this season, the teams drew 1-1 with Chicago equalizing at the end of stoppage time. In 2018, Chicago won both matches.
Prediction: 3-2 Lions.
It is certainly going to be a wild ride. The Lions must win three or four to close out 2019 — a tall order for a team yet to enjoy back-to-back league wins this season — but they will also need some help, and see a few teams above them take multiple loses if they are to have a shot at making the playoffs. Buckle up everyone, it could get a little crazy in the race for the playoffs.