Orlando City Faces Pivotal Showdown Saturday As New York Red Bulls Visit Citrus Bowl
By Lucas Casás, Orlando City // July 17, 2015
ORLANDO, FLORIDA – Just three days after playing a friendly against English Premier League side West Bromwich Albion, Orlando City has arguably the most important game of the season on Saturday.
The New York Red Bulls, just two points ahead of City in the standings, will make their first-ever visit to the Orlando Citrus Bowl.
The two games are on opposite ends of the spectrum, as friendlies are just that – friendly – and the Lions are right in the middle of an ever-tightening Eastern Conference race. Just six points separate second place from ninth and City is nestled in the middle. A win on Saturday would go a long way toward securing a coveted playoff berth.
The Lions are bubbling with confidence after their 3-1 win that saw Kaká, Carlos Rivas, and Bryan Róchez all score highlight reel goals. Not only that, but stalwarts Darwin Cerén and Cyle Larin are both back from the CONCACAF Gold Cup and will be available for selection come Saturday.
Still, such short time between games poses a challenge with which Adrian Heath and his staff must contend.
“You prefer to have a full week’s practice but as I said, the most important thing [is] we got through last night pretty much unscathed and all our players who are going to be important at the weekend are fit and well,” said the Lions head coach after training on Thursday.
The Red Bulls come in having won three of four, including last Saturday’s 4-1 drubbing of New England. They’re armed with two of the best forwards in MLS in Bradley Wright-Phillips and Lloyd Sam, and have Winter Park-native Dax McCarty at midfield.
The Lions have a few weapons of their own, though, in Larin, Rivas, and Pedro Ribeiro. They also added to the arsenal on Tuesday.
Left back Corey Ashe was acquired from the Houston Dynamo at a time when Orlando City didn’t have an eligible player for that position on the roster following Luke Boden’s red card suspension. Ashe is a nine-year MLS veteran and has faced both Wright-Phillips and Sam.
“Fortunately I’ve played against both of those players over the last few years so I’m familiar with both of them,” he said.
“It will be a bit of an adjustment, obviously not having played with Orlando, but good players find ways to overcome difficult situations so that’s what I have to do.”
It’s unclear as to whether Ashe will be in the starting XI come game time, but Heath did say “chances are” Ashe will play on Saturday.
The Gaffer won’t reveal whom he plans to start, but he did guarantee one thing for Saturday: “We’ll be a lot better than we were [last] Saturday. I guarantee that.”