Coming off of Wednesday night’s friendly vs. Arsenal FC, Orlando City returns to league play for their fourth game in eleven days as they take on the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia Union tonight at Exploria Stadium (7:30 p.m. ET; Fox35 PLUS, LionNation TV).
It’s the Lions’ first MLS home game following a two-game road swing last week that saw both games end in 1-1 draws against the Colorado Rapids and Atlanta United.
- Orlando City has been struggling for wins over the last two months, as they’ve picked up just two wins in their last nine MLS matches (2-3-4 overall). While it’s been enough to help keep the Lions above the playoff line in 5th place, they’ve dropped points from a winning position three times over that stretch — all on goals in the final 30 minutes of the match.
- Speaking of…. the Lions’ struggles in the final half hours of games only grew worse over the last week. The Lions took 1-0 leads into halftime against both Colorado and Atlanta, only to concede after the 60th minute and settle for draws. Wednesday night’s friendly against Arsenal was 1-1 at halftime, but once again, two late goals — in the 66th and 80th minutes — foiled the night for Orlando in the 3-1 loss. Sure, that match doesn’t mean much at the end of the day, but it once again shines a light on an issue that has continuously hampered the team this season. In all, the Lions have conceded 16 times after the 60th minute this season for the worst goal differential in the league for that time period with -8.
- Orlando and Philadelphia are meeting for the second time this season, the first in MLS play. The Lions defeated the Union, 2-1, in the last go around in the Round of 32 in the U.S. Open Cup back on May 10. Ercan Kara and Andrés Perea each scored in that one.
- The Union have been on a tear over the last few months, coming into tonight’s match looking to extend their winning streak to four games. Jim Curtain’s side has the fewest losses in all of MLS (2), with just one (yeah, really) in their last 13 games.
Roster news and injury report
OUT: Mason Stajduhar (Jaw), Joey DeZart (Right Knee)
INTERNATIONAL DUTY: None
Both Antonio Carlos and Joao Moutinho are fit and fully available for action tonight, according to head coach Oscar Pareja. Carlos played a full 90 minutes against Arsenal, with Moutinho contributing 45 minutes himself. Moutinho, who has missed the last month due to injury, hasn’t appeared in an MLS game since June 18.
Newly-signed forward Nico Gioacchini is also available for the Lions tonight. Whether or not he plays right away is another thing, but the 21-year-old USMNT-capped Gioacchini has been training with the squad for the last couple of days since officially signing on a free transfer this week.
Predictions and commentary
While LAFC are considered the best team in MLS, the Union are a very close second. Aside from the fact they hardly lose, they’ve only conceded a mind-bogglingly low amount of goals so far this season, with just 25 goals against in 21 games. Put that defense up against an Orlando City team that has on the other hand struggled to come up with any answers in the final third, having scored a goal or less in 10 of their last 14 games, one can only assume that this game will present yet another challenge for Oscar Pareja’s side, even with the added reinforcements of Gioacchini this week — or, because this is MLS and dumb stuff happens literally every week, the Lions might rattle off five goals and make the Union look like boys against men, who knows.
Best case, the Lions score two and this one ends in yet another draw. Worst case, another home defeat, which would be the most in MLS should they pull that one off.