The halfway point of the season is fast approaching and Orlando City are heading into their final action before the Concacaf Gold Cup break, hoping for something positive to hold on to after they exit the field against the Montreal Impact on Saturday night at Saputo Stadium.
Although you have to date back almost two full years since the last time Orlando City even took a point from a contest with Montreal (June 17, 2017, to be exact), with the Impact riding a four-game winning streak over the Lions coming into the weekend, the visitors are understand their task coming off of a 1-0 loss to the LA Galaxy last weekend, a match in which the Lions were shutout despite putting up 17 shots against the struggling Galaxy.
“I think that’s the biggest thing, is finishing it off,” head coach James O’Connor said at training on Wednesday when asked about the team’s lack of finishing over the last several weeks. “When you look at the quality of play it’s been great. It’s just that final piece that we’re desperate to make sure we go and get the reward.
“I think we’re working really hard, we’re giving ourselves the opportunities to go and get the three points, so we just need to go and be a lot more clinical and grasp those opportunities.”
The Lions have had plenty of opportunities but have failed to grasp them of late. Excluding the team’s five-goal outburst against FC Cincinnati, the Lions have scored just four goals over six of their last seven games.
Montreal, meanwhile, is sitting in 3rd place in the Eastern Conference after their 2-1 victory over Real Salt Lake on Wednesday night. The Impact has already beaten Orlando once this season, 3-1 in Orlando back in the middle of March, and are now 3-1-1 at home this season.
Barring any surprise omissions, Orlando should have the full squad available for this weekend’s match. O’Connor has gone with the same Starting XI in back-to-back games, but we could see a change or two this time around, with Uri Rosell sliding into the midfield over Will Johnson. I can’t say for sure if O’Connor agrees with me, but a Sebastian Mendez–Cristian Higuita-Rosell midfield is the best option for Orlando is they continue to stick with this 4-3-3.
There’s also the addition of Dom Dwyer, who missed the LA match due to yellow card suspension. The Lions will be happy to have him back in the lineup even though he hasn’t been in a great run of form lately. Any Dwyer is better than no Dwyer (usually).
Keys to the Game
1) Kick the ball into the net. If this sounds a little too obvious, it’s because it is. That’s the whole point of soccer. Orlando has struggled to score goals lately, as I’ve already mentioned, and it simply comes down to not finishing their chances. The Lions, despite the results, have been playing well over the last month and are only losing games by smaller margins that last season’s team would have been losing by multiple goals. The Lions out-played Los Angeles held their own on the road against Seattle and Atlanta and were also just as good as Toronto through 45 minutes before falling apart in the second half. The difference-maker in those games was Orlando’s lack of finishing.
2) Fend off the early goal. The Lions have now conceded first in 10 of their 14 games this season, a tough way to win games when you’re constantly fighting from behind. Goals change games and conceding first, and often early, changes the course of the game and only makes it tougher for the Lions to score when teams set back and bunker down.
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