There is no hotter team right now in MLS than Orlando City. And on the road, it’s hard to find a team that’s as cold as Real Salt Lake.
The Lions go for a club record when they play host to road-weary Real late Sunday afternoon.
Orlando (5-2-1) matched a club record with its fifth straight victory by rallying with second-half goals from Cristian Higuita and Yoshimar Yotun to top Colorado 2-1 on the road last Saturday. The streak is also the longest in MLS this season.
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Fourteen of Orlando’s 16 goals have come in the last five games. Dom Dwyer leads the way with five goals, followed by rookie and fellow forward Chris Mueller with three, and midfielder Sacha Kljestan with two.
“You know, it’s been some up-and-down games,” Kljestan said. “It’s been some crazy games. We’ve had to come back. I think we’ve just battled it out, because it hasn’t been perfect, that’s for sure. Five wins is great, but it hasn’t been perfect.”
Perfect or not, the Lions’ run has the club in third place in the Eastern Conference, trailing only Atlanta United and New York City FC.
Orlando coach Jason Kreis, a former player and coach with RSL from 2005 through 2013, told the league’s official website that there’s “not really an extra motivation at all” to beat his old team, but indicated that they will pose a formidable challenge.
“It’s a team that we need to be prepared for and have a ton of respect for, because they are quality and they can score goals and really hurt you,” he said.
But after a season-opening draw, Real Salt Lake (3-4-1) has alternated losses and wins in its last seven matches. Coach Mike Petke’s club was blanked for the third time in five road games after falling 2-0 to the Vancouver Whitecaps on April 27.
The setback also dropped RSL to 0-6-2 in its last eight away from home, but midfielder Albert Rusnak told the Deseret News that there were several good takeaways from the match.
“Up to the first goal we were the dominating team,” the Czech Republic native said. “That was the best game we’ve played on the road or home as in how we played.”
The team is in middle of the pack in the Western Conference even though it has scored the second-fewest goals (9) and has one of the worst goal-differentials (minus-7).
Rusnak is second for RSL with two goals — one behind Ecuadorian forward Joao Plata — and leads the team with two assists.
This is only the second meeting between the clubs in Florida. In the 2016 season opener, Plata scored twice for RSL before Orlando came back with goals in the 94th and 95th minutes to forge a 2-2 tie.