Orlando City is entering this week’s contest against the New York Red Bulls sitting on a similar perch.
The Lions were unbeaten through their first six matches of the season and winners of two in a row before the Red Bulls handed them their first loss of the season, a 2-1 defeat back on May 30 — to this point, it remains Orlando’s only loss of the season.
So here we go again, with the Lions this time playing host as the Red Bulls come to town for a Saturday night matchup at Exploria Stadium (7:30 p.m., FOX35 PLUS/LionNation TV). A win against New York would push the Lions’ winning streak to four in a row, which would be the first time the club has racked up more than three consecutive wins since its six-game winning streak back in 2018.
Since that match up just over a month ago, Orlando has returned from the June break to win three matches in the span of seven days, riding hot into this weekend once again with their eyes locked in on closing down the New England Revolution for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
Orlando’s most recent match came just over a week ago when the Lions traveled down south to take on Inter Miami. Gonzalo Higuian scored the opening goal early in the second half, but late goals from Chris Mueller and Nani pushed the club back on top to gain all three points and claim victory in their first meeting of the season against their in-state rivals.
Nani has scored a goal in all three games off the break, his first action in nearly six weeks after a two game suspension forced him to miss the Lions two remaining May games heading into the long layoff. He has six on the season already now in eight games, a forceful pace that puts him in a spot to exceed the 12 goal mark he set in 2019.
A worthwhile note to tack on to this impressive run of form: the Lions have been playing through it without a sizable group of regular contributors. While Pedro Gallese and Sebastian Mendez are still away on international duty, the Lions will be regaining Rodrigo Schlegel this weekend after he missed the last three matches due to the recent passing of his father. Ruan and Joao Moutinho are both still sidelined with lower-body injuries — Moutinho re-injuring himself against San Jose after returning to action earlier this season. Alexandre Pato is close to returning but still remains out himself, too.
Daryl Dike‘s return to the team has given Orlando a much-needed boost up top, but after just three games with the team, Dike will be off to the Gold Cup with the United States following this weekend’s match, possibly leaving him unavailable through the end of July (the Gold Cup final is on August 1).
The Red Bulls are fighting in a different, meanwhile. They have just two wins in their last six, are coming off a a scoreless draw with Atlanta United this past week, and are sitting in 7th place with 13 points through their first 10 games.
And their injury last for the weekend isn’t doing the team any favors:
Neither Orlando nor New York have ever beaten each other twice in a row all-time, so something might have to give this weekend when the Eastern Conference foes clash under the light in Central Florida.
What Pareja says about upcoming game
“Another game and certainly a good rival too that gave us some difficulties when we played at their place. [It’s] a great opportunity for us to keep adding points, but most importantly getting involved players that have not been with us lately,” coach Oscar Pareja said. “About the [New York] Red Bulls, we know their ways and I’m sure they know ours. We’re aiming to, as always, to be protagonists of the game and be aggressive and a team who is aiming to score goals in the way that we have and bring the victory again. We’re getting ready, but we know the opposition and we know as well that it’s not going to be an easy game.”
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