Orlando City can’t take much confidence from an April win over the Philadelphia Union.
The win, at this point, may as well have been from a different season. Orlando City was surging at the time and the Union were struggling to find their way. The win, a 2-0 victory, remains Orlando City’s only clean sheet of the season in MLS play.
The roles are reversed now. The Union (12-11-3, 39 points) have won four consecutive league matches and are in the thick of the playoff picture in fifth place, on the heels of fourth-place Columbus. Orlando City (7-16-2, 23 points) has won just one of its last 16 matches and has plummeted to the bottom of the Eastern Conference table.
Plus, the Union already got their revenge on Orlando by beating the Lions 1-0 in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals.
“It’s a very different point in the season,” said Orlando City captain Jonathan Spector.
The Lions play the Union for the third time this season at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday in Orlando City Stadium. The match is Orlando City’s last home game before the club goes on the road for away games against Sporting Kansas City and the Chicago Fire.
“We’ve consistently had tremendous support throughout my time here,” Orlando City coach James O’Connor said about the Lions’ home matches. “Even before then, I think when I was away, I was always looking and really amazed and impressed by the level of support, the passion they show.
“It definitely motivates you and it makes you want to work even harder to bring some success for the supporters because you see how much they give. That’s something that I’m absolutely determined to do, is to make sure that we get the level of success [supporters] deserve.”
Spector said the club is grateful for the support from Orlando City’s supporters, despite a rough season. Orlando City’s match against Atlanta United drew an announced crowd of 25,058.
“They’ve been behind us from the start of the season up until now, and that’s bearing in mind results haven’t gone our way,” Spector said. “It gets frustrating for us, as well as for the fans. We understand that, but we are incredibly grateful for the continued support that they’ve shown us and we want to pay that back.”
The Union are playing with confidence after rattling off five wins in August across all competitions. Orlando City’s first two matches against the Union this season were played in Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, Penn.
“We proved to people we don’t suck,” Union winger Fafa Picault told reporters after a 2-0 victory over D.C. United on Wednesday. “Everybody thought we sucked. It obvious we don’t. We’re moving up the table and we’re not focused on the teams we below us, we’re trying to get as high as we can.”
O’Connor said Orlando City is still looking for consistency. He’s been at the helm since the start of July.
The club is also still trying to fix a leaky defense. The Lions have given up a league-high 59 goals and have a league-worst -21 goal differential.
“If it’s a defensive play, we need to make that defensive play,” O’Connor said. “If it’s an attacking play, we need to score. I think that’s something that, for us, we want to be more consistent in the level of the performance and have a higher level of control in games.”