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Know Thy Enemy: Revolution at Orlando City Purple Playoff Edition
OCSC has overtaken the Revs for second place in the East, can New England bounce back or will the Lions continue the Revs backwards slide?
Tonight the New England Revolution look to get back on track towards a high playoff seed as they travel down to Exploria Stadium to face Orlando City SC tonight at 730pm, available for free on AppleTV+ (with login) and locally on 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Coming off their first home loss of the year, the Revs are in a bit of a free fall in the East, with Orlando stepping into their long-held second-place spot behind Shield winners FC Cincinnati. There is still hope for New England to be the higher seed in the first round of the playoffs and potentially play twice at home in that dreadful three-game series concept.
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A loss to OCSC might very well clinch the second seed for the Lions, as the Revs are one of the few teams who could overtake them with a win and their game in hand. This would be a tall task however give the form these two teams are in.
I talked with Mike Citro on The Mane Land’s PawedCast (and did properly boo their horrific punny title as is among our traditions), but post-recording I mentioned how strong of a chance Orlando has to be a legitimate darkhorse for MLS Cup. This is a team that has only lost three times since the middle of May, yes one of those games coming at Gillette, but Orlando’s rise up the East has been building throughout the second half of the year.
Orlando City has won seven of their last ten, claiming 23 of a possible 30 points in that stretch with their only major blemish a 0-2 loss on a baseball field in the Bronx. They’ve claimed two 1-0 wins at Cincy and at Nashville in the span of a month and boast the best record in the league away from home. Honestly being able to play their style get results, including out Nashvilling Nashville in Nashville…is really impressive.
At full strength, I do believe the Revs have the attacking prowess to hang with anyone in the league in November. But New England isn’t trotting out a full-strength lineup and might have to make a push for a higher seed without DeJuan Jones and Noel Buck against Nashville (their game in hand which was rescheduled with NSC’s run to the Leagues Cup final) due to international duty.
So, this is a very important result for both teams to solidify their positions for the postseason. If Orlando wins today and the Revs continue to fall, this could be a preview of the 2 vs 7 seed matchup in the East. As always we are joined by our good friend Ben Miller of The Mane Land to talk all things Purple Lions related, including those above-mentioned big road wins and someone to keep an eye on if OCSC is going to make a deep playoff run.
Be sure to check out my answers to Ben’s questions over on their site.
TBM: Orlando City has really found their form late in the year, with wins against Cincinnati, Columbus, and Nashville in recent weeks. They currently sit second in the East, do they feel like the second-best team behind Cincy and how deep into the playoffs can they go?
BM: On the balance of things, I would say that anything less than an Eastern Conference Final appearance is a disappointment. This team has shown that it can beat the best teams in the East, and as you mentioned, has been on a great run of form lately. If everyone can stay healthy this is a team that should be making the Conference Finals.
TBM: Orlando boasts the best road record in MLS, how important could that be in November and what's been the key to their success away from home?
BM: With the new playoff format, it could be a big factor once the postseason rolls around. The road record can be attributed to the fact that the type of soccer most teams play on the road favors the Lions. OCSC doesn't have any problem sitting back, inviting teams to attack and then countering the other way to grab goals. Wednesday's win against Nashville was a great example of that. While Orlando had 57% of the ball, it was mostly content to knock it around, coax Nashville out of its shell and then try to quickly get the ball forward. The Lions only took two shots all night and scored with the lone shot on target. OCSC is capable of putting three or four past teams the way they did to Montreal and Columbus recently, but is perfectly happy with a 1-0 win on the road.
TBM: Facundo Torres is good at soccer, please take time to gush about him if needed, but who's the one person that needs to step up and have a big postseason if Orlando is going to make a run possibly through Cincy and MLS Cup?
BM: Duncan McGuire. He's got 10 goals on the year and is the latest in an ever-growing line of strikers that Orlando City has hit on in the MLS SuperDraft. He offers pace, physicality, a willingness to run, and finishing ability in front of goal, and the Lions just look more dangerous when he's on the field and playing well. He's also got three assists and if he can keep scoring consistently and chip in with an assist here and there then it's going to go a long way to giving this team a chance to make a run.
BM: Favian Loyola and Adam Grinwis are both out with left arm and left thigh injuries respectively, although it would have been unlikely either would see the field regardless. Antonio Carlos got 5 minutes off the bench, making his first appearance in a very long time. I doubt he'll start but won't be surprised if he gets 15-20 off the bench as he continues his way back to full fitness.
Pedro Gallese; Rafael Santos, Rodrigo Schlegel, Robin Jansson, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson; Wilder Cartagena, Cesar Araujo, Martin Ojeda, Mauricio Pereyra, Facundo Torres; Duncan McGuire.
I'll go 2-1 Orlando City. Exploria Stadium should be full and rocking and the players are well aware of how big a win here would be towards securing 2nd place in the East.