Our expansion team rivals from the North once again make the trip down to play at our Citrus Bowl. This season the two teams have been compared very often to each other. It seems fitting that Orlando City’s playoffs hopes could be dashed by the first team to enter the Citrus Bowl in MLS this season. A lot has happened since that first draw back in March.
Orlando City is holding onto playoff hopes by a very small thread. NYCFC’s playoffs dreams were crushed last Saturday when Montreal defeated the Colorado Rapids in a 1-0 match. Orlando City must win in this last home game of the regular season and the following weekend when they travel to Philadelphia to take on the Union in the last game of their first MLS season. Even if they do get 6 points, it might not be enough to squeak into the playoffs if Montreal can win in their last two games. One thing is for certain, a trip to the playoffs, and to continue to defy expectations, is through David Villa, Andrea Pirlo, Frank Lampard and the rest of NYCFC.
The first meeting between these born rivals resulted in a tie. In that game Kaka scored the first goal for the Lions in MLS history. With that goal it brought the game even at one to keep the Lions undefeated for their first game. The second time these teams clashed was up in the Bronx at Yankees Stadium. When they met in the Bronx it was during Orlando City’s dark month of July where the Lions went 0-1-4. The performance for the Lions was typical of their performance during that month, embarrassing. NYCFC had control of the game and beat the Lions 5-3 in a game where both teams forgot how to play defense.
This time, Orlando City will be looking for some redemption and payback. Even though they are ahead of the team in Blue, Orlando City has no intention of ending the season behind their rivals. A sure way to guarantee that is to finish with several balls to the back of the net.
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The Lions are working very well together currently and seem to finally be gelling together as a team. This game could not come at a better time of the season for them. Though it would have been nice to face NYC with Kaka and Brek Shea, both will be out due to yellow card accumulation. Shea’s return from injury has really proved to be detrimental to the teams success recently. He has returned a different player.
Though it is a lose to play without these two international play makers, Lewis Neal and Adrian Winter should provide the spark that is needed to fill the void and putt up some great attacking passes and runs. I look forward to seeing the Lions play without Kaka, as last time the captain was out for injury we saw these same players step up and perform. One could even make an argument for Lewis Neal being the Lions most versatile and solid player in the midfield.
At the end of the night Orlando City will either still be in the playoff hunt or will have fallen at the feet of their rival. This match up will be an aggressive and hard fought game. At the end of the season, even if the Lions don’t make it into the playoffs, this game will be bragging rights between the players, coaches and fans of whichever team wins.
There are lots of fun events going on on Friday night in Orlando, but really the only event that matters and where everyone in Orlando should be is at The Citrus Bowl cheering on our purple team and pushing them for one more win for the playoffs. Make it count.