Preview: What to watch for in crucial Orlando City matchup against New England Revolution


Photo: Terrance Coakley / Orlando Soccer Journal

Orlando City is in the home stretch of the regular season with just four games left to go and need nothing short of three points to keep their playoff hopes alive as they host the New England Revolution this Saturday at Exploria Stadium (7:30 p.m. ET, Fox 35 Plus and YouTube TV).

New England, with a game in hand on the Lions, currently holds the 7th and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and are looking to sweep the season series with Orlando after demolishing the Lions 4-1 at Gillette Stadium back on July 27. Orlando does have a win over the Revs this season, claiming a 2-1 victory in the U.S. Open Cup earlier this summer.

“These are the type of games that you want to be involved in, so again we’re really looking forward to it. I think for us this particular game obviously we’re desperate to win because we understand the ramifications of the game, the importance of the game,” head coach James O’Connor said at training this week. “But I think it’s managing the process, I think if you worry too much about the outcome it affects it so I think we need to stay very process-oriented, make sure we get some good training in and keep the level of performances where they’ve been at.”

For both of these sides, it could come down to who wants it more. The Lions have struggled at home this season, with seven losses at Exploria Stadium — only FC Cincinnati has lost more home matches this season — while the Revs are just flat out struggling, with one win in their last five league matches, coming off a 2-1 loss at New York City this past weekend.

The Lions are hoping to have some of their internationals back after missing action this past weekend, as all should be available for selection after midweek games away.

Three Things to Watch For

1). Looking for more. Nani’s goal against Los Angeles FC last week was his first goal from open play since scoring against Cincinnati back in May. With their attack struggling to create goals through the last couple of months, the Lions will be looking for their Portuguese playmaker to contribute to the scoreline as much as possible over the next four matches to keep their playoff hopes alive.

2.) Home field advantage. The home team has never won in all-time meetings between these two clubs. Orlando City has won two of their last three matches against the Revolution at Exploria Stadium, not including Open Cup, with the most recent matchup ending 3-3 back in 2018.

3.) Starting on the right foot. A key theme to Orlando City has been how the team starts in the first 15 minutes of matches. They conceded early yet again against LAFC last weekend, and their road trip to New England in July was no different, with the Revs jumping on the scoreboard in just the third minute. If the Lions can score first rather than falling behind early, they’ll have a much better shot at grabbing all three points.

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