Saturday night Orlando City will travel to the Twin Cities to take on an MLS side that is newer than they are. And when they are there they will see several familiar faces in unfamiliar roles. For the first time since last season, Kevin Molino and Adrian Heath will be involved in a match that involves Orlando City, but they will be playing for and coaching the opposing side.
Minnesota got off to a very rocky start on the year, losing their first few matches badly, giving up at least five goals in three of their first four matches. But after an early season trade with Colorado that shored up their defense, the Minnesota United have stabilized and have now scored 18 goals, good for the 3rd highest total in the Western Conference. They have given up more goals than anyone in MLS, conceding 30, but fully half that tally came in the first four matches of the season.
Orlando City is coming off one of their worst losses of the season. After starting with the longest winning streak to open a new stadium in MLS history and reaching the top of the MLS Supporters Shield race, Orlando City has run into its "hell season" where over the course of May and June it is playing several weeks that feature three matches each. Losing some of these was expected, but last week's loss to NYCFC was disgustingly lopsided, especially given that both Orlando City and NYCFC had played midweek matches that featured cross-country trips out and back. The team has had a full week of rest, and I hope that they have learned something from the losses that they can use to get the ship righted and get back on the winning patch.
Players to Watch
Kevin Molino seems to be thriving after being reunited with Coach Adrian Heath, with a tally of five goals scored on the season already. But Molino is not even the leading scorer on the team. Christian Ramirez is a holdover with Minnesota United from the NASL days, much like Molino came into MLS along with the USL side from the original Orlando City. Ramirez has thrived in MLS, scoring 7 goals so far this season, matching the total by Orlando City's Cyle Larin.
After the recent mid-season slump, Orlando City has fallen from first in the East to fourth, but they are still solidly in the playoff hunt and can remain there as long as they start taking wins and stop the losing trend. Their early season form proves they have the talent to be winners, but they seem to have lost some of their sharpness and focus that helped them reach the top of the table, and they need to get that back again so they can return to form.
Honestly I'm not sure what to expect tonight. I know it's going to be an emotional match for both clubs--Adrian Heath will desperately want a win against the visitors as a way to prove to the front office of Orlando City that they made a mistake in firing him last season, and Orlando City will desperately want to win the match to have bragging rights over their old coach and former teammate. My predictions have been hit-or-miss this season, and since last time was a miss, I hope that today my fortunes will reverse. I'm going to call for a road win for the Lions, with a 2 - 1 tally.
Finally, for those expecting a wrap-up from last week's match my apologies to you, but there really wasn't anything worth writing about. I started this blog as a labor of love for a team that most days goes out and plays hard and strives and fights and makes us glad to be fans. But they laid an egg last weekend and gave no effort in the 3 - 0 loss, so I didn't think it worth the effort to talk about.
What are your thoughts on tonight's match? Do you think Inchy and Molino will find a way to continue Orlando City's woes by handing them yet another road loss, or do you think the Lions will be able to find success in the Twin Cities and bring home a solid result? Let me know in the comments below!