Tonight will be another strong test for Orlando City on the road against a team in the playoff race at Houston. Going into the match at Toronto, I mentioned that history in the matchup was on Toronto's side, but in this matchup with Houston, history favors Orlando City, if only marginally. In In Orlando City's first season, we had our first road win and first outright victory in franchise history at the Houston Dynamo. The victory came on a dramatic goal scored by former Orlando City player Pedro Ribeiro, who followed the ball into the net as he clattered through the keeper. Then last season the two sides drew in Orlando, giving City a 1 - 0 - 1 edge in the series.
And tonight Houston will come into the match the fresher side, since Orlando City had to play the midweek match at Toronto. We saw four lineup changes from last Saturday to the midweek match, including the lack of usual starters Antonio Nocerino (who was kept out due to still healing from a calf injury that he suffered in the April 9 match) and Will Johnson (who woke up Wednesday with flu-like symptoms and was scratched from the 18-man lineup). I expect to see some other players shuffled around in the starting XI for tonight due to the quick turnaround from injury, and I hope that both Nocerino and Johnson will be available for selection if not inserted as starters so that some of the players who have had the last 180 full minutes will get some rest.
Players to Watch
For Houston, Erick Torres has seven goals on the season to lead the team, while Alberth Ellis and Romell Quioto have each added three more goals. The assist leader for the team so far is Alex, who has four assists on the season. Houston is also finishing a little better in the scoring end of the pitch, with an average of 1.9 goals per match. Meanwhile Orlando City is only scoring on a pace of 1.4 goals per match. But Houston also is giving up more goals, surrendering 1.4 goals per match, while Orlando City is only giving up 0.9 owing to their improved defensive form.
Speaking of Orlando City, I would expect to see at least four different faces in the Starting XI from Wednesday. The question is, though, on short rest who would start from the bench? It would not surprise me to see Kaka back on the bench to start this match as he works his way back into midseason form, and this might be the match when we see Cyle Larin start from the bench as well. Orlando City have created a lot of opportunities for themselves this season, but they have struggled to convert those chances to goals, scoring only 11 goals from 91 shots so far this season.
It's going to be a tough ask for Orlando City to get a result with a combination of the third game in 8 days and the Texas heat and humidity (which can be as bad or worse than Orlando's at times). Perhaps pride will come into play tonight as Orlando City will not want to go another match without a result. I am going to go out on a limb and predict that Orlando City will be able to assert their dominance as leaders of the Eastern Conference and get a win from tonight. With that in mind, I'm calling for a reversal of Wednesday's result, with Orlando City bringing back a 2 - 1 victory and three big road points from Houston. I am fully ready to admit that this prediction is more a partisan hope than an educated hypothesis, but I never promised that this blog would be impartial.
What do you expect from the match tonight? Do you think Orlando City can bounce back from the loss at Toronto or will the two short turnaround matches prove too much for them? Let me know in the comments below.