Saturday night, Orlando City (5 - 6 - 12, 27 points; 7th place East) will play against the Colorado Rapids (11 - 3 - 9, 42 points; 2nd place West) at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, CO. This will be a mighty test for the club and it comes in the midst of a period of transition as new players and a new coach are all beginning to put their mark on the future of Orlando City.
Colorado has risen high in the playoff standings by spreading out their attack and having one of the best defenses in MLS. There are eight players that account for 23 of the 27 goals the Rapids have scored on the season, so there are no obvious playmakers or finishers where a defense can focus their efforts to stop. Meanwhile, just three players (Cyle Larin, Kevin Molino, and Kaka) have 25 of the 38 goals scored by Orlando City. And while Orlando City's defense has conceded 41 goals on the season, Colorado has allowed fewer than half that number (20). What's even more impressive is that in 12 home matches, Colorado has only allowed opponents to score five goals all season.
Statistically speaking a key for Orlando City's chances in the game may be to try to get multiple goals into the net: Orlando City has 14 games on the season where we have scored 2 or more goals; Colorado only has 7 such matches on the season.
And Orlando City's Joe Bendik has been tested much more than Colorado's Zac MacMath and the legendary Tim Howard. Bendik has 88 saves on the season after facing 132 shots on goal, while MacMath and Howard have only had to face a total of 89 shots and have had to make only 64 saves between them. Creating chances for our scorers to test Howard will be paramount if Orlando City wants to come back home with three points.
Notes on the Match
David Mateos and Antonio Nocerino are eligible to play again after serving a one-match suspension last week. And for once, Orlando City has no players sitting on the cusp of suspension, although Colorado's Shkelzen Gashi is on four yellow cards and will be suspended if he gets another caution in this match.
In terms of injury, Orlando City fans will miss a chance to see a familiar face in a different uniform. Sean St. Ledger, who played most of the expansion season with Orlando City in 2015, now is on the Colorado roster, but he is sidelined with a knee injury. Germain Jones and Dillon Serna are also out with injury for the Rapids.
For Orlando City, there are some new and ongoing updates to the injury list. Rafael Ramos is still out for the match against Colorado, but Coach Jason Kreis indicated that Ramos would likely play for OCB this Sunday, meaning he should be close to returning, perhaps for the midweek match next Wednesday at Camping World Stadium. And Cristian Higuita has been listed as out for four weeks with a hamstring injury suffered against Chicago, while newly acquired Matias Perez Garcia is listed as day-to-day.
Orlando City is struggling to win this season, especially on the road. And Colorado is extremely stingy giving up goals at home, as we have seen. That leads me to predict what sounds like a boring result: 0 - 0. I think Orlando City will not score any goals, but will be able to bring home a point from the road this weekend. If that comes to pass, it will be another well-deserved clean sheet for Joe Bendik, but it would deny Cyle Larin and Kevin Molino the chance to register goals against a legend like Tim Howard.
What about you? What do you expect to see from this weekend? Do you think Orlando City will be able to get more than a draw from the match, or do you think there's still too much transition happening to expect any points for the Lions from Saturday night? Let me know in the comments below!