Orlando City-Union Preview
Orlando City is the hottest team in MLS, but even with another win it likely won’t cap a solid inaugural season with a playoff berth.
Visiting City looks to conclude the season with a sixth consecutive victory Sunday against the lowly Philadelphia Union.
Orlando City (12-13-8) has outscored its opponents 13-5 during a five-game winning streak that is currently the longest run in the league.
"What we’ve done during these past few weeks and the overall commitment from the players has been exceptional," coach Adrian Heath told the club’s official website.
However, that run of success still leaves City three points behind New England for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Should Orlando win and the Revolution fall to New York City FC, Heath’s side would still need to make up an eight-goal differential on New England.
Though the chance of Orlando heading to the playoffs appears slim, a victory would give it 47 points – the most by an expansion team since Seattle recorded the same amount while reaching the postseason in 2009.
"I want to finish the season off as best as possible," Heath said. "We need to go out and win the game."
Simply being in a position on the last day of the season to entertain thoughts of a playoff berth is something Orlando had aimed for back when play began in March.
"It is massive," defender Seb Hines told the MLS’ official website. "We have given ourselves a chance, and that was our goal. We put ourselves in a good position, and (it would be) a massive accomplishment to win six games down the stretch. We can leave the season with our heads held high."
Rookie forward Cyle Larin certainly can.
The talented Canadian is tied for fourth in the league with 17 goals, six of which have come in the last three games. He scored twice in the span of eight minutes in the second half Oct. 16 to help Orlando rally for a 2-1 victory over NYCFC.
"It’s important for me to be ready for every game," he said. "If I’m ready, I know I’ll score."
Larin managed two shots with one on target during a scoreless draw with Philadelphia (9-17-7) on Aug. 8.
"Orlando is a team that’s looking to end their season the right way and we’ll look to do the same in front of our fans," Union coach Jim Curtin said.
Set to miss the playoffs for a fourth consecutive year, Philadelphia will try to avoid ending another disappointing season with a third straight defeat. The Union have yielded seven goals in the last two contests and recorded one in each of the last three.
Philadelphia trailed 4-0 before Sebastien Le Toux scored in the 55th minute of last Sunday’s 4-1 loss to the Red Bulls.
"I think the direction in the second half was a little bit more positive," said midfielder Tranquillo Barnetta, who assisted on Le Toux’s goal. "We saw if we are on the field as a team, we can be a good team."