SANFORD, Fla. — Orlando City will look to snap a scoring slump and earn a vital win over FC Dallas Saturday night at Exploria Stadium.
After falling 4-1 on the road against New England Saturday, the Lions now sit seven points below the playoff line, adding an extra dose of pressure to Saturday’s match as the team returns home. FC Dallas has been stingy on the defensive end throughout the season, allowing only 26 goals to be scored on its backline throughout the season. That tally is the third lowest number in the league — only LAFC and New York City FC have allowed fewer goals so far this year.
That shutdown defense has been on display during the past few weeks, with Dallas recording four clean sheets during its past five MLS matches. The backline will be a challenge for Orlando City, which has created ample chances but failed to finish them during the past two games. Against New England and New York, the team took a combined 35 shots, but only netted one of them. During the Lions’ match against the New York Red Bulls, three of those shots hit the frame.
“I feel like a broken record with what we’re saying, but we’ve had chances, we’ve made chances,” Orlando City coach James O’Connor said. “It’s just a case of putting everything together.”
While the Dallas backline has been a formidable threat throughout the season, the team has succeeded in grinding out low-scoring games for 0-0 draws and 1-0 victories. Still, the team brings pace in its attack, led by forward Jesus Ferreira, who leads the team with six goals and four assists.
FC Dallas also excels at taking first-half leads and holding them, highlighted by a sixth-minute goal during its win over D.C. United last month. For an Orlando City team that has allowed early goals to define its last two games, the key to Saturday’s match will be coming out sharp from the opening whistle against FC Dallas.
“It’s a team that can counter you quick,” goalkeeper Brian Rowe said. “They can get out on the break and counter you quickly. We’ve got to stay honest in our defensive shape to eliminate those threats.”
The team’s leading goal scorers have all suffered recent dry spells — forward Chris Mueller hasn’t scored since July 3 and team captain Nani hasn’t scored since June 1. Forward Tesho Akindele scored the lone goal of the team’s 4-1 loss to the New England Revolution on Sunday, but it was his first netted in almost a month.
Mueller, who just helped Orlando City win the MLS Skills Challenge Tuesday thanks to strong finishing on trick shots, said it’s up to the Lions to find a way to end the drought.
“It’s gonna take a little of individual quality where someone is gonna have to make a play,” Mueller said. “The players are ultimately going to determine whether we break through or not. We know what we have to do.”
Orlando City vs. New England Revolution, 7:30
Where: Exploria Stadium
Watch: WRBW-Channel 65, YouTube TV
The Buzz: Orlando City lost 4-1 on the road against the New England Revolution on Sunday. … Tesho Akindele scored the team’s only goal in the 77th minute, assisted by Nani and Dom Dwyer. … FC Dallas is coming off a 0-0 draw against Real Salt Lake Saturday. … The Lions are led by star designated player Nani, who has goals (8) and assists (8), but the forward hasn’t scored in eight matches. … FC Dallas is led by Jesus Ferreira with six goals and four assists.