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Three Keys to an Orlando City Victory over New England

We take a look at three things the Lions need to do to advance past the Revolution on Sunday.

New York City FC v Orlando City SC: Round One - MLS Cup Playoffs Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

Tuesday night brought the welcome news that Orlando City will be hosting the conference semifinal playoff match against the New England Revolution in the friendly confines of Exploria Stadium. I’m not saying it won’t be a tough match, but playing at home is demonstrably better than playing on the road.

The Lions will be missing some players, and it won’t be any easier than any other time in this weirdest of seasons. Let’s look at three keys to an Orlando City victory.

Back(up) Rowe

As awesome as Rodrigo Schegel’s save was to help Orlando City advance past New York City FC, it came at the cost of Pedro Gallese being out for the match against the Revolution. While you can get a Schegel keeper kit, there’s no way it won’t be Rowe between the sticks this Sunday. No, Rowe isn’t as good of a keeper as El Pulpo, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a quality keeper. Last season, he was better than people remember and was a more than serviceable MLS keeper, as I wrote in our 2019 Orlando City Season in Review. I would argue that Orlando City has the best backup keeper in MLS. That being the case, the Lions still need Rowe to get the job done. Late goals from set pieces need to be a thing of the past, and he must play his part to make sure of it. If he can, Orlando City will have three hero keepers in 2020.

Fullback Attack

Gallese wasn’t the only Orlando City player sent off against the Pigeons. Ruan’s ill-advised retaliation saw him receive a straight red card and has him definitely missing this Sunday’s match and possibly the next one assuming the Lions advance. Óscar Pareja likes his fullbacks to get into the attack, and no one is as quick at doing so as Ruan. His speed will be missed. It’s also uncertain if João Moutinho will make his return this weekend. Even if he does, how will his form be after so long, and how long will be be able to go? As our Christopher Adams outlined in his exceptional article, Kamal Miller and Kyle Smith will need to step up. I’m actually a pretty big fan of Smith. He’s been the “utility infielder” for Pareja, slotting in wherever needed, whenever needed — oftentimes on the left, when he’s better on the right. Regardless of which players start for the Lions, the threat of attack from the fullbacks needs to be there for Orlando City to get the goals to win the match.

More Goals are the Goal

The Revolution haven’t been prolific scorers this season, but they did beat the Philadelphia Union 2-0. The Lions struggled to find the last bit of quality against NYCFC, and it nearly cost them. Orlando City has to score multiple goals, and the team needs contributions from the guys that got it here. Daryl Dike, Chris Mueller, and Nani all need to take advantage of whatever opportunities they get. The midfielders need to stop skying shots, and get some on frame. Good things happen when a ball is ping-ponging around in the six-yard box, and the Lions should look to capitalize on that.

This goes back to the previous point of the fullbacks helping with the attack, but also with Mauricio Pereyra directing things in the attacking midfield. Orlando City has often been at its best when Magic Mo is pulling the strings. He doesn’t even need to get the goal himself, he just needs to create the opportunities for those around him.

This is by no means an all-inclusive list of what needs to happen for the Lions to advance, but if Orlando City can manage the above points, the chance of advancing is a lot better. Vamos Orlando!