Today could be the last opportunity for Orlando City to prove that they are serious about making a playoff run in 2016. Last weekend they played Colorado (2nd place West) to a scoreless draw at Dick Sporting Goods Park, and on Wednesday they lost to Toronto (now 1st place East) at home. Tonight they play fellow 2015 expansion side NYCFC (2nd place East) at Camping World Stadium. Three points will move Orlando City to within a point of 6th place DC United, while a loss will keep them only a single point ahead of 8th place New England Revolution.
To mark this occasion, our group is reviving a tradition from last season that we've all been a bit too busy to do regularly this year: our "grill the competition" tailgate. This weekend we have New York Strip steaks from Petty's Meats in Longwood, and they have been marinating for over 24 hours in a simple marinade that I put together:
- Zesty Italian Dressing (Publix brand)
- Minced Onions
- Minced Garlic (Spice World brand)
- Dijon Mustard (Boar's Head brand)
- Worcestershire Sauce
Together with the steaks, we're doing baked potatoes and New York Style cheesecake. In our opinion, the team needs as much help as we can give it tonight so we're trying to do our part.
Players to Watch
NYCFC has blossomed in 2016 under the guidance of head coach Patrick Viera. It's clear that he and the GM and the ownership are all on the same strategic page in terms of the European style of players they would like to recruit and the style of play they would like to use. With that positive synergy, they've managed to reach the top of the table in the East and have built some impressive statistics for several players. David Villa is scoring co-leader in MLS with 16 goals, while Andrea Pirlo and Thomas McNamara are co-leaders for NYCFC in assists, with 9 each. Frank Lampard also has 9 goals for the visiting side. In the two earlier meetings between the clubs this season, David Villa and Frederic Brilliant have scored against Orlando City (May 29 in Yankee Stadium).
For our hometown lads, Cyle Larin of course leads the scoring with 13 goals and Kevin Molino has nine more. In terms of assists, Kaka leads the team with 8 and Kevin Molino has 7. Cyle Larin scored the game winner on March 18 in Yankee Stadium, and on May 29, Julio Baptista and Kevin Molino scored goals to secure the draw. In other news, it's possible that Rafael Ramos will be available for tonight's match after playing a half with OCB last week. With this being the third match in 9 days for the hometown club, I would expect some changes from the Wednesday Starting XI and possibly a few changes in the bench composition.
NYCFC has found success this season by being prolific scorers. They have scored 44 goals on the season. They are aggressive and opportunistic, and their experienced European players are prolific finishers. They have 360 shots with 132 shots on target, compared to only 303 shots and 103 shots on goal for Orlando City.
NYCFC has won 3 of their last six matches, while Orlando City only has one win in the same span. Given that and the difficulty that Orlando City has had in getting wins so far this season, it's difficult to pick the home side to win. But I really dislike NYCFC and I don't want us to lose the all-time winning edge we hold against them (Orlando City has an all-time 2 - 1 - 2 record in the head-to-head matches). Given that, I am going to predict an unlikely 2 - 1 victory for Orlando City in tonight's match. I know that's mostly wishful thinking, but I don't like entertaining the thought of NYCFC making the playoffs earlier in their MLS history than Orlando City.
What about you? What are your predictions on the match? Do you think Orlando City stands a chance to win the match and show they still have the hunger to make the playoffs, or do you see NYCFC just being too strong for the hometown side tonight? Let me know in the comments below!