Red Bull rematch another pivotal showdown in playoff chase

Aug 6, 2022; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; New York Red Bulls players huddle before the
Aug 6, 2022; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; New York Red Bulls players huddle before the / Rafael Suanes-USA TODAY Sports

17 days ago, Orlando City hosted the New York Red Bulls in the US Open Cup semifinals. It was the biggest match in club history that turned into the most memorable in Orlando history as the Lion's obliterated the Red Bulls 5-1 behind a seemingly rejuvenated offensive attack.

In the two weeks since, things have been a struggle with the Lions suffering back to back losses to fellow playoff contenders, pushing Orlando beneath the playoff line for the first time all season. That "rejuvenated" offense is all but evaporated and the defense is underperforming.

Things aren't good right now for Orlando City. Despite the magic of a run to an Open Cup final, the team's league form has fallen off a cliff with just one win in the last eight matches, including three straight losses. Oscar Pareja is under real pressure for the first time in his Orlando tenure and the season is getting intense.

Including Saturday's showdown with the New York Red Bulls, the Lions have ten games left in the regular season. Six are against teams jockeying for position in the middle of the Eastern Conference, including the Red Bulls.

As stated in the Open Cup preview in July, the Red Bulls pose a tricky threat for Orlando City. They press high and hard with a rock solid back four protecting the net. New York is the most miserable team to play against in the league and could make it a long night for the Lions.

In that Open Cup game, Orlando City was able to force turnovers of its own and spring early offense on the break. That's always the way to beat the Red Bulls: force them to use more of the ball and hit them in the space left behind. It's difficult, hence why New York is a perennial playoff team, but Orlando has the blueprint to pull it off.

That on-paper ability is the problem for Orlando, though. This team *can* do anything. It can play beautiful attacking soccer, lock it down in the back and post a lot of wins. There's no obvious weakness and enough difference makers all over the pitch to be a very good team. But that just hasn't been happening for months.

This is now the third-straight game where we've gone into it asking whether Orlando can turn it around and go on a run. With each passing week and missed opportunity, the odds get bleaker and bleaker. Orlando needs a win on Saturday, but I don't think they can get it done.