MLS Preview and Prediction: Orlando City vs New England Revolution

Competition: Major League Soccer – Orlando City SC vs. New England Revolution

Venue: Orlando Citrus Bowl – Sunday, April 17 – 15:30 ET (20:30 BST)

Match Odds: Orlando 23/20 – Draw 5/2 – New England Revolution 9/4

Match Preview

Orlando City host New England Revolution in an all-Eastern Conference clash on Sunday afternoon with the sides separated by just one point heading into the contest.

Orlando come into this one off the back of their 2-1 away loss against Philadelphia Union so will be looking to bounce back here following their first defeat of the campaign.

The Lions sit third in the Eastern Conference and were looking like a strong side until last week’s loss. Fans will be expecting them to mount a strong challenge for the playoffs this season so continuing their strong run of home form is essential.

Orlando are yet to beat New England Revolution, drawing once and losing once in their two meetings last year. However, Adrian Heath will be optimistic they can take all three points this time around.

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New England Revolution have had an inconsistent start to the 2016 regular season but are sitting fourth in the East after losing just one game from six so far.

This fixture last season ended in a 2-2 draw and so the Revs will know just how difficult a place the Orlando Citrus Bowl is to visit.

New England come into this one off the back of their 1-1 draw with Toronto last time out. Jay Heaps will be hoping his side can build upon what was a good point last time out and possibly take all three here as they look to climb further up the Eastern Conference.

The Revs will need to tighten up their defence, an issue Heaps will have been addressing, as they have conceded eight goals in their six outings so far.

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Team News

Orlando City have four injury concerns. Conor Donovan, Cyle Larin and Tommy Redding are expected to miss out while Cristian Higuita is a doubt. Julio Baptista came on for the final minute last week but will be hoping to make his full debut in front of the home crowd on Sunday.

New England Revolution have just the one injury concern as Darrius Barnes is a doubt heading into this tie.

Key Points

Orlando City’s last five: D/D/W/W/L

New England Revolution’s last five: D/L/D/W/D

Key Stat: Fortress – Orlando are unbeaten in their last nine home outings in Major League Soccer.

Key Player: Kaka – The Orlando captain has netted one in his two appearances this season and there is added pressure on him to provide here in the absence of in-form forward Cyle Larin. Kaka can turn any game in an instant and will hope to perform as he did in Orlando’s excellent 4-1 home win over Portland two weeks ago.

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Score Prediction

Orlando City 2-2 New England Revolution – A repeat of last season’s scoreline between these two at Orlando Citrus Bowl could be on the cards. There isn’t much to split them by coming into this tie and we expect it to be that way throughout, although goals are to be expected.

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MLS Preview and Prediction: Orlando City vs Portland Timbers

Competition: Major League Soccer – Orlando City vs. Portland Timbers

Venue: Orlando Citrus Bowl – Sunday, April 3 – 20:00 ET (01:00 BST) 

Match Odds: Orlando 11/8 – Draw 23/10 – Portland 2/1

Match Preview

Orlando City welcome MLS Cup Winners Portland Timbers to the Orlando Citrus Bowl this weekend in a tie which should be packed with action.

Orlando have had a great start to their second season in MLS and remain unbeaten in three. Their performances see them sitting third in the Eastern Conference heading into the weekend.

Adrian Heath’s side come into this one off the back of their first win of the campaign, a 2-0 victory over New York City. They had drawn their first two of the season but will now look to make it two wins in a row against the reigning champions.

These sides met once in Orlando’s inaugural season, with Heath’s side coming out as 2-0 winners away at Providence Park and they will be hoping they can repeat that result as they welcome Portland to the Citrus Bowl for the first time.

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Portland Timbers have proven to be a bit of a mixed bag so far this season. They started 2016 with a win but have since lost and drawn in their last two fixtures.

Caleb Porter’s side come into this one off the back of their 2-2 draw against Real Salt Lake, a game they looked likely to lose at 2-0 down but a late brace from Fanendo Adi was enough to take a share of the points against an RSL side who ended the game with nine men.

The good news for the Timbers is their sole loss this season is the only time they have tasted defeat in their last 12 matches so they will be expecting to get on a strong run of form and push their way up the Western Conference, starting in Florida on Sunday.

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Team News

Orlando could be without up to four for this tie. Conor Donovan, David Mateos and Bryan Rochez are expected to miss out. There had been doubts about Kaka but the Brazilian insists he is fit to play and should make his first start of the campaign here.

Portland have just the two injury concerns as Liam Ridgewell and Andy Thoma are both expected to miss out here.

Key Points

Orlando City’s form: D/D/W

Portland’s form: W/L/D

Key Stat: Fortress – Orlando are unbeaten in their last eight home outings.

Key Player: Cyle Larin – The Orlando striker has netted in every game so far this season and has scored in the opening ten minutes in his last two appearances.
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Score Prediction

Orlando City 1-1 Portland Timbers – Both these sides will cause one another trouble throughout this tie. Orlando are already proving difficult to beat this season, while Portland are struggling for consistency. A draw wouldn’t be a bad result for either side.

MLS Preview and Prediction: New York City FC vs Orlando City

Competition: Major League Soccer – New York City FC vs. Orlando City SC

Venue: Yankee Stadium – Friday, March 18 – 19:00 ET (23:00 GMT – Live on Sky Sports) 

Match Odds: NYCFC 11/10 – Draw 5/2 – Orlando 23/10

Match Preview

New York City FC welcome Orlando City to Yankee Stadium on Friday evening in what should be a highly entertaining Eastern Conference clash between the league’s two newest franchises.

Both sides have started the new season without a loss and will hope to extend their unbeaten runs to three on Friday, although both will be out for victory.

New York City followed up their 4-3 win over Chicago with a 2-2 draw against Toronto last Sunday. That result wasn’t bad by any stretch, but throwing away a two-goal lead will have left Patrick Vieira feeling a little disappointed.

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The home fans will be hoping for three points from Friday’s game and will be confident, especially as NYCFC beat Orlando 5-3 in last year’s meeting at Yankee Stadium.

Orlando are still looking for a first win of the new campaign after back-to-back draws in their first two outings. Adrian Heath will be frustrated that his side failed to pick up a win considering both matches have been at the Citrus Bowl so far.

The dramatic 2-2 opening day draw with Real Salt Lake was impressive given how late the Lions scored their goals, but last week’s 1-1 tie with a 10-man Chicago Fire team was disappointing.

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Orlando now have the chance to take points off fellow Eastern Conference playoff chasers and will hope that their first road trip of the new season proves to be valuable.

These two clubs met three times last year. They drew 1-1 on the opening weekend of last season, before both clubs won on home soil. NYCFC beat Orlando 5-3 at Yankee Stadium before the Lions responded with a 2-1 victory in October.

Team News

Patrick Vieira will remain without the services of Connor Brandt, Jack Harrison and RJ Allen as all three are still nursing injuries. Frank Lampard is still a doubt but is edging closer to a return, while the same applies for Andoni Iraola and Jefferson Mena, who could both be back in contention. It will be interesting to see if Vieira goes with a three-man defence again, as he did against Toronto FC.

Orlando are still sweating over the fitness of Kaka. The Brazilian has yet to feature this season and isn’t expected to make Friday’s game either. Conor Donovan, David Mateos, Carlos Rivas and Bryan Rochez also remain sidelined.

Key Points

NYCFC’s form: W/D

Orlando City’s form: D/D

Key Stat: There were 13 goals in the three clashes between these sides last season – an average of 4.3 goals-per-game. Entertainment.

Key Player: Cyle Larin – The Orlando forward has started the new season with two goals in two games and looks as dangerous as he did last term. He now has eight goals in his last six MLS starts and will look to hurt a vulnerable NYCFC defence on Friday night.

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Score Prediction

New York City FC 2-2 Orlando City – This should be another high-scoring clash between Major League Soccer’s two newest sides. There were eight goals in the clash at Yankee Stadium last term, and while that total might not be matched, both will feel confident of hurting the opposing defence. It’s tough to separate them on paper and so a score draw looks to be the most likely outcome for this week’s opening game.

MLS Preview and Prediction: Orlando City vs Real Salt Lake

Competition: Major League Soccer – Orlando City vs. Real Salt Lake

Venue: Citrus Bowl – Sunday, March 6 – 14:00 ET (19:00 GMT) 

Match Odds: Orlando 1/1 – Draw 12/5 – Salt Lake 14/5

Match Preview

Orlando City welcome Real Salt Lake to the Citrus Bowl for the first time on the opening weekend of the 2016 Major League Soccer regular season.

Both these sides failed to make the playoffs last time around and both have room for improvement heading into the new campaign.

Orlando City drew their opening game of their inaugural MLS season and went on to finish 7th in the Eastern Conference.

Their best spell of the 2015 campaign nearly pushed them into the playoffs at the end of last season where they won five out of six – five of those wins coming on the bounce.

Adrian Heath has made some key additions to his squad and will be hoping his side can make a push for the playoffs this time around – Orlando had a solid preseason, only losing once so they have some good form to build upon.

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Real Salt Lake come into the new campaign with optimism and will hope for a repeat of their form at the opening of the 2015 season where they went through their first five games unbeaten – winning twice and drawing three.

Jeff Cassar’s side finished the 2015 campaign 9th in the Western Conference and will want to get off to the best possible start to avoid being in the depths this time around.

They didn’t have the best preseason but this is a chance to start afresh and prove to everyone their not just here to make up the numbers.

They crashed out of the CONCACAF Champions League to Tigres but impressed in the second leg on Wednesday and will hope those games have helped their match sharpness.

Their 2015 season ended with four losses in five outings – a domestic run of form they will not be looking to continue.

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Team News

Orlando City have no injuries heading into the new campaign. They have made some key signings, with the likes of Antonio Nocerino and Joe Bendick coming into the squad. Devron Garcia is one to watch for Orlando. He has represented Honduras at U17 and U20 level and is an energetic defensive midfielder. He could prove to be the legs Orlando need in the middle and do some of the running to keep key man Kaka fresh this campaign.

Real Salt Lake also have no injuries ahead of this tie. They welcome back Yura Movsisyan – he won the playoffs in his last spell with the club and has a record of 20 goals in 81 appearances in MLS. Danilo Acosta also signed for RSL and he will be hoping to make his debut here.

Key Points

Orlando City’s preseason form: W/L/W/W/W

Real Salt Lake’s preseason form: L/L/D/D

Key Stat: Travel-sick – Real Salt Lake have struggled on the road, losing ten of their last 12 MLS outings away from home.

Key Player: Kaka – The Orlando captain had a solid first MLS season and now is the time to build on that. He may be 33 now but can still cut it. He bagged nine goals and notched seven assists last season in 28 appearances. He will expected to boss the middle of the park here.

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Score Prediction

Orlando City 3-1 Real Salt Lake – Orlando to get off to a flyer and take advantage of Real Salt Lake’s difficulty on the road. The only meeting between these two last season ended 1-1 but that was at the Rio Tinto Stadium. The Orlando fans will be expecting nothing less than three points and will want to see their side pick up the first opening day win in their short history.

2016 MLS Season Preview: Orlando City

As the 2016 MLS season edges closer, we’ll be publishing each team’s MLS 2016 Season Preview. Today we take a look at what Orlando City will be hoping to achieve in their second season.

Orlando City will have undoubtedly enjoyed their first season in MLS last year, as they provided entertainment and drama throughout. They will obviously be disappointed not to have made the playoffs, but that should spur them on to go one better than their seventh place finish last season. Adrian Heath has made more changes to the squad this offseason and will hope that the whole club will improve following the experiences of their inaugural campaign in Major League Soccer. The challenge this time around will be to start much better, as the Lions only won one of their first five games in MLS a year ago. But having ended 2015 with five wins from six, there is reason for optimism in Florida. Huge wins over LA Galaxy (4-0), Columbus Crew (5-2) and the Red Bulls (5-2) proved they can cope with the biggest clubs in MLS and so they could be dark horses for success in 2016.

Last season’s finish:

Eastern Conference – Position: 7th – P34 – W12 – D8 – L14

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What needs to change this year?

The Lions must try and shore up defensively. They conceded 56 goals – the second highest amount of in MLS – last term and need to work on shutting teams out more regularly, having kept just seven clean sheets in 34 games. They could also benefit massively from improving their home form. The Citrus Bowl became one of the loudest stadiums in MLS last year but the players let their fans down too many times on home soil. Orlando had the fifth-worst home record in MLS in 2015 and need to try and make the Citrus Bowl more of a fortress this season.

Key changes to squad:

Ins: Joe Bendik – Goalkeeper, Richmond Laryea – Midfielder, Hadji Barry – Forward, Devron Garcia – Midfielder & Antonio Nocerino – Midfielder

Outs: Tally Hall – Goalkeeper, Corey Ashe – Defender, Eric Avila – Midfielder, Lewis Neal – Midfielder, Estrella – Midfielder & Danny Mwanga – Forward

Key Player:

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Kaka – Midfielder – It’s impossible to look at anyone else as the key player for Orlando. Kaka is the captain and the most influential man in the team. He ended 2015 with nine goals and seven assists in 28 games and will expect to build on those numbers this time around. He is 33 years old now but still has the quality to create a chance from anywhere on the field. Orlando need Kaka to be at his best if they are to challenge high up the Eastern Conference this year.

One to Watch:

Devron Garcia – Midfielder – The 20-year-old Honduran international is one of six players to have been signed this offseason but is certainly one with plenty of scope for success. Garcia joins Orlando from Honduran side CD Vitoria, where he scored three goals in 39 matches, but it’s his contributions on the defensive side of the ball that really count. He thrives in the defensive midfield role and will hope to force his way into the first-team lineup quickly, despite competition for places in that area of the Lions squad. He has already represented Honduras at U17 and U20 levels and will be hoping to make an impression in 2016.

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Predicted Finish:

Eastern Conference – 7th – The 2016 season should be another exciting one for Orlando City and it would be a shock if they were to go backwards in their second campaign. We’ve predicted they will end the season in seventh place once again, but they have the potential to finish higher and will be expecting to make the playoffs. The Eastern Conference is set to be even more competitive this year and it will be fascinating to see how Orlando City perform in their second campaign. If Cyle Larin can repeat his fine season, and that’s a big ‘if’, they should do very well, while the addition of Antonio Nocerino is one that could prove to be an extremely good piece of business.

What are you expecting from Orlando City in 2016?

Getting Stuck In: Why is MLS foreign to foreign coaches?

The Getting Stuck In column delves into some of the more intriguing aspects in US Soccer and MLS, shining a light on the stories regarding the league’s teams and its most-loved characters. This week Dave Lewis looks into how foreign coaches have struggled in Major League Soccer and why that might be the case.

As I sat freezing my butt off in the Nordecke section of Crew Stadium (I still refuse to call it MAPFRE Stadium) for the Eastern Conference final game against the Red Bulls, I wondered why over the years so many foreign coaches have bombed in MLS. And the first person I thought of was Ruud Gullit, the Dutch great who scored goals for the likes of PSV, AC Milan and Chelsea. If you remember, Gullit signed to manage the Galaxy in 2007 and proceeded to lay an egg. Gullit was paid a ridiculous ransom (the highest paid coach in MLS at the time) for kidnapping the Galaxy’s winning ways. He only coached for parts of two seasons and LA missed the playoffs both years, which is hard to do in the playoff-friendly MLS format. Not only did he ruin the beginning of Beckham’s MLS career, but he looked clueless when it came to tactics (didn’t practice set pieces much in training) and even dumber when it came to signing players and understanding the salary cap and draft rules.

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But the highest profile foreign coach bust has to be Carlos Alberto Parreira. The MetroStars (now the Red Bulls) hired the Brazilian World Cup winning coach to guide them in 1997… to the dumpster. His 13-19 playoff-less record didn’t get him fired (he left on his own terms) but he must’ve felt out of his depth when it came to MLS. He didn’t understand that you really need to make smart personnel decisions in MLS, not just throw any players together and call them a ‘team’.

So when I looked down the sidelines during the Eastern Conference final through my frosted over glasses, I saw two American coaches who looked right at home in MLS in Gregg Berhalter and Jesse Marsch.

Berhalter, the Crew SC head coach and technical director was the first American coach to manage in Europe when he took over at Hammarby in Sweden. (There’s a separate column for another time as to why U.S. coaches aren’t getting much of a shot in Europe; I mean c’mon, you don’t think Bob Bradley could’ve done a good job at Villa?).

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Berhalter, having played in the league, understands his limitations, and with Columbus being such a small market team and having limited off-the-field revenue streams he has to be smart (the Galaxy are in the midst of a ten-year, $44 million sponsorship deal with Herbalife, while the Crew have a much smaller five-year deal with shaving cream company Barbasol).

A foreign coach might just go for DPs left and right (see Galaxy under Gullit), but Berhalter has to be shrewd and know the American soccer landscape. His formula is to sign underappreciated foreign talent (Federico Higuain, Harrison Afful, Cedrick Mabwati and Gaston Sauro for example), blend in some established MLS players (Kei Kamara, Michael Parkhurst), sign players through the draft (Ethan Finlay) and grow players through their academy (Will Trapp). It’s a roster filled with good signings alongside good draft picks and a smart use of the Designated Player rule, using only one of their three available slots (Higuain is a modest DP and somehow Kamara isn’t one).

Currently there are only five foreign coaches in MLS with two more on the way as Patrick Vieira (NYCFC) and Veljko Paunovic (Chicago Fire) are set to enter the league in 2016. That could mean trouble, especially for NYCFC. They canned Jason Kreis, an MLS-winning American coach that knows the league like no other having scored over 100 goals in over 300 appearances with FC Dallas and RSL. His success at RSL, like Berhalter’s, was based on extreme knowledge of the league. The only reason Kreis got fired was because foreign owners didn’t understand the MLS concept fully. You need a balance of players, not three DPs, a high priced US International and a bunch of low-level talents. Kreis had no chance. So they go with Vierra, an unproven big name (only coaching experience is with the Manchester City reserves). Good luck Patrick. History is not on your side.

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One case that could go against the grain is that of Oscar Pareja’s. Pareja has done an outstanding job with FC Dallas but he played in MLS for eight years, coached the U.S. U17 team and had a stint with Colorado as their main man. Yes, he was born in Colombia, but he was very much raised in American soccer.

So could a Jose Mourinho come over here and have the same success he’s had in Europe (forget about this year’s current slump)? Well, most would think yes. But I have my doubts based on what I have discussed. I know he wouldn’t do much in his first year that’s for sure. Could you imagine him having to deal with a salary cap? The unheard of amount of travel (Seattle to Orlando is pretty far)? Or knowing how to draft college players? And what would he do when confronted with allocation rankings or the targeted allocation money rule on top of other crazy MLS nuances? He might just pack his bags and head back to London with a headache.

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Look, I think Owen Coyle at Houston will figure it out and so will Adrian Heath at Orlando because they are humble, good guys, willing to learn and embrace MLS. But neither made it to the playoffs this year. Only four foreign coaches have won the MLS Cup: Gary Smith, Thomas Rongen, Frank Yallop and Piotr Nowak. I don’t count Sigi Schmid since he moved to the U.S. from Germany when he was four years old, while Nowak and Rongen feel American since they are well-versed in American soccer with Novak having served as Bob Bradley’s assistant on the U.S. National team and Rongen spending over 35 years in the U.S. as a player and coach, most notably as the U20 U.S. coach.

So after thawing out and digesting the Crew’s 2-0 first-leg win over New York and Portland’s 3-1 win against Dallas on the same night, it looks likely that two U.S. coaches will make it to the 2015 MLS Cup Final (Berhalter vs. Porter). And if that happens, it sure won’t be very foreign to anyone, will it?

MLS Preview and Prediction: New England Revolution vs Orlando City

Competition: Major League Soccer – New England Revolution vs. Orlando City

Venue: Gillette Stadium – Saturday, September 5 – 19:30 ET (00:30 BST)

Match Odds: New England Revolution 8/13 – Draw 3/1 – Orlando City 4/1

Match Preview

New England Revolution take on Orlando City this Saturday as they look to secure a playoff place in the Eastern Conference.

The Revs are sitting in 5th place on 37 points and have been in a good run of form, unbeaten in their last five, winning four of those games.

They come into this one off the back of last weekends 1-0 away win over Philadelphia Union which will have continued to help build confidence in the side.

Jay Heaps will know Orlando will push his side hard to take all three points but this is a tie he will expect the Revs to win and make their excellent home advantage count.

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Orlando City have struggled over their last five games, failing to register a win in any of those outings, but despite those results they remain well in the fight for a playoff spot.

Adrian Heath’s side showed their desire to get back on track with their 1-1 draw with Chicago Fire last weekend after their ill-disciplined performance away at Toronto the previous week.

Orlando have lost their last four on the road and in those games they have conceded 18 goals. They will need to be far more organised at the back if they are to take anything away from a very strong Revs home side.

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Heath’s side have lost seven of their 13 away ties this season, but have showed they have what it takes to find the net against the Revs, with their earlier meeting in the campaign ending in a 2-2 draw. If Orlando can repeat that scoreline it will be a solid result.

Team News

New England are still without Darrius Barnes. London Woodberry and Jose Goncalves are both one caution away from a suspension. Jermaine Jones is on international duty with the USMNT.

Orlando City have six injury concerns heading into this one. Kevin Molino, Conor Donovan, Brek Shea and Harrison Heath are set to miss out while Tony Cascio and Seb Hines are both doubts. Carlos Rivas and Darwin Ceren are both one away from suspension. Rafael Ramos and Adrian Winter are serving the second game of their suspensions following their dismissals against Toronto.

Key Points

New England Revolution’s last five in MLS: W/D/W/W/W

Orlando City’s last five in MLS: L/D/L/L/D

Key Stat: Fortress – New England Revolution are undefeated in 22 of their last 23 home games.

Key Player: Kaka – Orlando desperately need their key man to help get the side reorganised and ensure they do not miss out on a playoff spot. His debut season in MLS has been a good one but he will be more than aware of the demands of the fans and the weight on his shoulders in a tough time of the season.

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Score Prediction

New England Revolution 2-1 Orlando City – The Revs to prove too strong for a struggling Orlando side with another home win.

MLS Preview and Prediction: Orlando City vs Columbus Crew

Competition: Major League Soccer – Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew 

Venue: Citrus Bowl – Saturday, August 1 – 19:30 ET (00:30 BST)

Match Odds: Orlando City 6/5 – Draw 13/5 – Columbus Crew 19/10

Match Preview

Orlando City host Columbus Crew this weekend in the third regular season meeting between the sides this term. The home side are yet to beat the Crew in a regular season game but were victorious in their meeting in the US Open Cup.

Adrian Heath’s side have lost their last three games on the bounce and this will be a real test for the eighth placed Orlando City.

Orlando have struggled to find home form this season, having won just three of their 11 ties at the Citrus Bowl and that is affecting their playoff chances.

Despite being six places behind the Crew in the league, Orlando are only seven points worse off than their opponents. Heath will be expecting his side to finish in the playoff spots and victory here would be a welcome result to end their four-game winless run.

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Columbus Crew are sitting in a respectable second place in the Eastern Conference and know they cannot afford any slip-ups in the coming games as they will risk dropping down the table.

Crew SC have been in good form of late, losing just once in their last eight outings. Worryingly though, they have only won one regular season away game this campaign.

Gregg Berhalter’s side come into the game off the back of the 3-3 draw with Toronto last weekend, in which they squandered a 3-0 lead and so the players will need to respond immediately to keep the pressure on DC United at the top of the Eastern.

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The MLS game between the two at the Citrus Bowl back in May ended in a 2-2 draw, while Columbus beat the Lions 3-0 at MAPFRE Stadium in April.

Team News

Orlando City will be without Kevin Molino, Tony Cascio, Brek Shea and Harrison Heath. Carlos Rivas is one caution away from suspension.

Columbus Crew have no injury concerns but do have three players one caution away from suspension. Mohammed Saeid, Kei Kamara and Waylon Francis are all treading on thin ice. Kamara suffered a knock in the MLS All-Star Game on Wednesday night but should be fit to start here.

Key Points

Orlando City’s last five in MLS: W/D/L/L/L

Columbus Crew’s last five in MLS: W/L/W/W/D

Key Stat: Columbus Crew have won just once away from home this season in MLS.

Key Player: Kaka – The midfield maestro played and scored in the midweek MLS All-Stars clash against Tottenham Hotspur and is unplayable when in the mood. Expect him to impress in front of his own fans on Saturday evening.

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Score Prediction

Orlando City 1-2 Columbus Crew – Columbus Crew to take all three points with their second away win on the bounce against an Orlando side struggling to find any form.

MLS Preview and Prediction: Orlando City vs Colorado Rapids

Competition: Major League Soccer – Orlando City vs. Colorado Rapids

Venue: Citrus Bowl – Wednesday, June 24 – 19:30 ET (00:30 BST)

Match Odds: Orlando City 19/20 – Draw 5/2 – Columbus Crew 14/5

Match Preview

Orlando City host Colorado Rapids in their midweek clash with the home side heading into the tie off the back of a defeat.

Head coach Adrian Heath can be pleased with his side and their performances have seen them rise to a respectable third place in the Eastern Conference. Their loss last weekend to Montreal Impact was their first defeat in five outings and they need to respond quickly.

Orlando are just four points behind New England Revolution, with a game in hand, and will be hoping they can continue to apply the pressure to the two sides above them as they look on track to make the playoffs in their first ever season.

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This is a game Orlando will be expecting to win but they cannot afford any complacency, despite being in a far better position than their opponents.

Colorado Rapids have had a dismal season so far and sit bottom of the Western Conference as a result. They have won just two games, the least of any side in Major League Soccer.

Pablo Mastroeni will be willing his side to put together a run of form but knows they will be up against it in this tie away from home.

The Rapids have won just once in their last ten outings and things aren’t looking any easier, with some difficult games approaching. On the bright side in those last ten they have picked up six draws, and so things could be worse.

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Team News

Orlando City are set to be without three players as Kevin Molino, Martin Paterson and Tony Cascio are sidelined. Brek Shea is one booking away from a suspension.

Colorado Rapids could be without three players as Axel Sjoberg and Juan Ramirez are out and Vicente Sanchez is a doubt. Sam Cronin and Bobby Burling are both one booking away from suspension.

Key Points

Orlando City’s last five: D/D/W/W/L

Colorado Rapids’ last five: W/L/L/D/D

Key Stat: Colorado have failed to win in 27 of their last 29 MLS games. 

Key Player: Kaka – The Brazilian playmaker has been brilliant for Orlando this season and has netted seven goals so far this campaign. His performances are vital to the side.

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Score Prediction

Orlando City 2-1 Colorado Rapids – A win which most would predict with Orlando heaping more misery on Colorado as they look to remain third in the Eastern Conference.

Orlando City midfielder branded as ‘invaluable’ by Adrian Heath

Orlando City SC midfielder Eric Avila has been labelled by head coach Adrian Heath as invaluable to the injury-hit Major League Soccer Expansion Franchise.

The former FC Dallas, Toronto FC and Chivas USA star is currently on loan with Orlando City from Santos Laguna in Liga MX and has enjoyed a spell in the side recently due to the injury crisis at the club.

Adrian Heath has been quick to highlight Avila’s importance to the team: “The great thing about Eric (Avila) is that he can play in any position in midfield, and even at right-back, so he has great versatility. In a league with a salary cap, it is invaluable,” Heath told MLSsoccer.com.

“The other great thing about him is that he is a really intelligent footballer. You never need to tell him anything more than once, so I feel confident in moving him around the formation.”

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Avila seems to be enjoying his time in the side too, after scoring in the 4-0 demolition of LA Galaxy recently.

“I honestly thought I was coming in here for more of a defensive role. However, the way things have worked out, it has been really good for me. I loved the way the team played when I watched on film of them and I really enjoyed playing in this style, so having a more advanced role actually plays to my strengths.”

Avila looks set to carry on as a key player to Orlando’s campaign as they look to cement a playoff place.

How valuable is Eric Avila to Orlando City’s playoff hopes?