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Orlando City looks to end skid with home match against Chicago Fire

Orlando City SC goaltender Joe Bendik (1) reacts as Toronto FC midfielder Jay Chapman (14) and midfielder Ryan Telfer (54) look on at BMO Field. Toronto defeated Orlando. (John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)

Orlando City goalkeeper Joe Bendik is looking at the club’s match against the Chicago Fire with some perspective.

Despite back-to-back losses – and the Lions giving up two goals apiece during those losses – Bendik isn’t putting too much stock in Saturday’s home match against the Chicago Fire.

When asked what a win Saturday would mean, Bendik’s was direct.  

“Three points,” Bendik said. “That’s what it would mean, exactly.”

He added, “I don’t think we’re short on confidence. We’re not going to let two games decide our season. We’re going for three points and we’re going for them at home.”

Orlando City (6-4-1, 19 points) had its six-game win streak snapped at home by Atlanta United and followed that up with a loss to Toronto FC at BMO field. A loss Saturday to the Fire (3-6-2, 11 points) would mean yet another May with just one victory.

So far, Orlando City hasn’t one more than one match in May in its MLS history, which began in 2015)

Last season, May marked a sharp turnaround for the Lions. After winning six of its first seven games, the club plummeted toward the bottom of the table and finished second-to-last in the conference.  

“I think we’re just a little bit more balanced and a little more consistent,” Bendik said. “These times where we’ve lost two games doesn’t quite feel the same. We’re still working toward something and that gives us a lot of motivation going toward this game.”

Right back Will Johnson said tactical awareness will go a long way for the club moving forward.

“I think we just have to be a little bit more aware of the types of games that we’re in,” Johnson said. “We’re in these one-goal games that could go either way. There’s a time to take risk and try to get the three points.

“There was a time in Toronto where we needed to be a little bit more aware of, OK, maybe this is a game where we needed to take a point and get out of there instead of continuing to press, get ourselves stretched and let up a late goal.”

Toronto managed to win after left back Mohamed El-Munir got over-aggressive trying to win a ball near the end-line. Instead, he got beat by Auro, who sent in a cross for midfielder Ryan Telfer on the left side of the penalty area. Telfer volleyed home the game-winner.

 “We’ve got to cut out a few little mistakes, being overaggressive and giving up chances,” Johnson said. “Every game in this league is difficult. Points are hard to come by, so we’ve got to continue to be good with the ball, have a nice shape, work for the guy next to you.”

Ensuring tactical awareness has been difficult with Orlando City’s back line almost constantly in flux this season. 

With centerback Amro Tarek with Egypt’s men’s national team, Orlando City’s back line will have a different look again. Johnson started the season as a midfielder, but an injury to Scott Sutter meant he had to shift to right back.

Captain and centerback Jonathan Spector is still day-to-day with a concussion. Sutter is also day-to-day.

“We’re getting guys back,” Johnson said. “We’re getting guys [who are] putting in good, honest shifts. We’ve got a good group of defenders back there. It’s just we need that last little 10 percent of cutting out those little, tiny mistakes that are costing us goals and, more importantly, points.”

And, of course, there’s the question of whether star striker Dom Dwyer will return to the lineup. He was not out for any of the portions of training available to members of the media this week and is still day-to-day with a lower body injury.

The Lions are winless this season without him in the lineup.

Kreis said he’s “hopeful” Dwyer will be ready to go this weekend.

“We go into this game and we say, ‘This is an opponent that’s feeling exactly like we are right now,’” Kreis said. “They’re going to have some real urgency about their situation. They’ve lost their last two in a row. They’ve had some rumblings about disappointments in the locker room and disappointments in performances. We expect an emotional team to come at us on Saturday.”

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