Ahead of today’s New England Revolution match away to Orlando City SC, it’s time to take a quick stock of how the Eastern Conference looks. In short, it looks about as messy as my sink after 24 hours of ordered overtime during my work week.
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Both the Revolution and Lions are struggling over their last eight games. Going back to their last meeting in June, a 1-1 draw, New England has just one win and eight points in the eight games of that stretch. Orlando hasn’t fared any better, also averaging a point a game with just two wins since that mid-June game. And they aren’t alone in the mediocrity that is the midtable of the Eastern Conference.
If you never mess with Matt Montgomery’s MLS Form chart - you should, it’s the best - a lot of teams in the East right now are not racking up the wins. It’s why there’s so many teams between Orlando in 5th on 30 points and the Revs in 11th on 27 points. Even DC United in last place on 21 points has a game in hand and a shot at making a quick run up the table.
Atlanta United in their last 8 games have just six points, Charlotte ten points, the Chicago Fire and Columbus Crew a barnstorming thirteen points, DC United with just seven, FC Cincinnati with just nine, Inter Miami moved up to eleven points following their midweek win against San Jose, and Toronto FC also sitting at eight points.
Once you get to the Top 4 in the East however, you start seeing some pretty solid numbers with the Philadelphia Union on a 5-game winning streak and 19 points in their last eight. NYCFC on a 7-game unbeaten run and have 15 points in their last eight. Montreal with five wins in their last eight and 16 points total in that span, and RBNY a little more up and down with a solid if unspectacular 13 points compared to their rivals at the top.
The Union and Pigeons clearly the class of the East with a clear gap between first and second down to third and fourth, especially with NYC having a game in hand. But everyone else in the standings is catchable assuming either the Revs or Orlando can get their acts together and string together some wins. A win today by the Revs would put them level on points with Orlando with New England holding a game in hand while three points by the Lions could see them start to separate from that midtable pack.
New England is still retooling and adjusting their roster from a tumultuous trio of sales with a flurry of deadline day MLS trades to bring in three new players and sent Sebastian Lletget to Dallas. Orlando nabbed USMNT youngster Nicholas Gioacchini on a free transfer but did not add any help to their backline. Whether one or both of these teams make it to the playoffs could rest in their ability to close out games, something we know New England has been horrid at this year.
As always, we chat with our good friend Ben Miller from The Mane Land about all things Orlando City Lions including his take on OCSC closing out games, their midseason reinforcements, and Orlando being the baddies in the US Open Cup Final.
Be sure to check out my answers to Ben’s questions over on their site.
TBM: Orlando City will host the USOC Final (where you’ll be the baddies against Sac Republic) and currently sit 5th in the East - has the season been successful so far and how has the team balanced a deep cup run with the regular season?
BM: Just Orlando’s luck that they make their first ever final (not counting MLS is Back) and are the bad guys! Frankly though, it feels like there’s been some unfulfilled potential with this season. The Lions have two draws and two losses in their last four league games, and in three of those games OCSC took the lead but ultimately dropped points from a winning position. Things like that have been frustrating and have left a sense that Orlando isn’t playing up to its full potential. With that being said, the Lions have also been balancing a cup run and if OCSC can win its first piece of silverware then it will spin some of the recent results in a different light - fairly so.
TBM: The Union and NYCFC seem like the class of the East, but the middle table is an absolute mess, what does Orlando need to do to stay with the upper echelon of the East down the stretch?
BM: As mentioned above the Lions need to be better at finishing out games. Especially lately, there have been two many points dropped from winning positions. Orlando also hasn’t been scoring enough. OCSC has scored more than a lone goal just once in its last 7 league games, and that came in a 5-3 home loss to D.C. United. Part of that is due to a severe lack of production from the wing position opposite of Facundo Torres. Benji Michel and Jake Mulraney have both had time to make the job their own and both have returned varying levels of underwhelming performances. The lack of production from that winger slot has allowed teams to focus on Facundo Torres and Mauricio Pereyra and it has made life difficult for the Lions offensively. The hope is that some of the incoming reinforcements will help fix that.
TBM: The trade/transfer window is closing, who are the incoming reinforcements and is there a position on the field you would have liked to have seen OCSC improve more at?
BM: Orlando brought in three names: USMNT prospect Nicholas Gioacchini at the striker/winger position, Ivan Angulo at the winger position, and Wilder Cartagena at the defensive midfield slot. The concern is that Orlando didn’t do quite enough to strengthen that pesky winger slot. Angulo is largely unproven and could end up being exactly what this team needs, but its difficult to tell when a player is an unknown entity. Once rumors started cropping up of Sebas Mendez moving to LAFC, there was some hope that Orlando could prize away Cristian Arango in return, as there have been some whispers about LAFC shopping him around. That didn’t happen, and OCSC signed Gioacchini and Angulo instead. It might end up working out very well, but there’s obviously some uncertainty involved.
Joey DeZart is out for the rest of the year after having knee surgery. Mauricio Pereyra left Sunday’s game early with a leg injury but he practiced this week so it seems he’ll be good to go.
Pedro Gallese; Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, Ruan; Cesar Araujo, Junior Urso; Facundo Torres, Mauricio Pereyra, Alexandre Pato; Ercan Kara
For a prediction I’ll say 1-0 Orlando. The Lions manage to scrape one out at home and provide some much needed points in the league