The cliché that anything worth having isn’t simply given holds true to Orlando City SC’s current situation. After losing 2-1 to now-No. 1 Toronto FC on an 86th-minute goal by Jozy Altidore Wednesday night, the Lions find themselves right back in the fire—and no less than four days later, too.
Following an inaugural Major League Soccer season in which the playoffs narrowly evaded Orlando City—by a matter of four points to be exact—No. 7 Orlando now finds itself in a similar situation, being separated from No. 6 D.C. United and a playoff berth by only four points. D.C. defeated the Chicago Fire 6-2 Saturday night.
But D.C., who the Lions will play twice more before the season’s end, is not of any immediate concern. On Sunday, Orlando City hosts No. 2 New York City FC in a match that could propel either team up one spot in the Eastern Conference table.
|2.||New York City FC||41||26||11||7||8||44||43||1|
|4.||New York Red Bulls||37||26||10||9||7||45||35||10|
|7.||Orlando City SC||28||25||5||7||13||39||43||-4|
|8.||New England Revolution||27||26||6||11||9||29||46||-17|
|9.||Columbus Crew SC||26||25||5||9||11||34||40||-6|
“No, there’s not [any extra motivation to beat NYCFC],” Kreis said after training Thursday. “I mean, regardless, if there is extra motivation on my part, [it] doesn’t necessarily mean I can motivate the players to be aligned with my motivation. So, for me, it has to just be another game… It’s another opportunity to show improvement and to hopefully get three points in a critical time in our season.What’s more, Sunday’s bout against the Big Apple squad will be the first time Lions head coach Jason Kreis will face the club that fired him last season after only one year. Kreis said, though, that his firing provides no additional motivation to win this game.
“It’s not about me, and it’s not about the opponent.”
For players like Orlando’s Brek Shea, there’s sufficient motivation in knowing that three points are on the line.
“I think there’s already enough motivation just because, I mean, we need three points; we need to keep pushing,” Shea said on Thursday. “We’ve already played two games this week. Third game, and then we kind of get a couple days to rest before our next game next Wednesday. So, there’s a lot riding on this game.”
Sunday’s match against New York City is an opportunity the Lions can ill afford to miss out on. Against NYCFC, the Lions are 1-0-1 this season after going 1-1-1 against them in 2015.
But that opportunity won’t be easily taken. New York City is by far the best road team in MLS, boasting the only positive record when away (6-4-3). Orlando City, on the other hand, owns a 4-2-7 record at home.
New York City also presents a challenge akin to one that Toronto posed on Wednesday: a league-leading scorer. On Wednesday, the Lions managed to hold Sebastian Giovinco to no goals; though, he assisted on both scores for Toronto and is second in the league in assists with 13. NYCFC’s David Villa is tied with Giovinco for most goals this MLS season with 16.
“[Villa’s] somebody that we need to be aware of, just as we were [Wednesday] with Giovinco, who’s right there with him,” Kreis said. “I thought we did a good job individually against Giovinco… We’re looking to continue to shore up our defensive work and be a little sharper in the attacking half of the field.”
Kreis also mentioned the necessity for his team to pressure players like Andrea Pirlo, knowing the kinds of passes he can deliver. On the season, Pirlo is tied in assists on his team with Thomas McNamara with nine.
Shea recalled the last time Orlando City had one of its most dominant defensive performances in Week 3 against New York City. In that game at Yankee Stadium, Cyle Larin scored in the seventh minute en route to a 1-0 win.
“Yeah, I remember that game. It was 60 minutes of defending, but we did it really well,” Shea said. “It just showed how much heart we had and how compact we were and didn’t let them score.”
That game, Orlando City rookie Tommy Redding frequently matched up with Villa on the defensive end, as NYCFC possessed the ball for 66 percent of the match. Redding looks to start his 15th match this season after starting two of the last three.
Orlando City hosts NYCFC at 7 p.m. on Sunday at Camping World Stadium.
(Featured photo by Victor Tan / New Day Review)
(All statistics via MLSSoccer.com and SoccerPunter.com)
- 8/28/2016, 12:38 p.m.: Adjusted Eastern Conference table and relevant statistics for matches played as of Aug. 27, 2016.