Orlando City coach Jason Kreis described his team as energized and confident with renewed desire coming off its biggest win since joining MLS.
The Lions (10-13-8, 38 points) whooped New England 6-1 Wednesday night, but there was little time to revel in the victory. Another big moment is upon them — their 100th MLS match kicks off at 4 p.m. Saturday against FC Dallas (10-9-11, 41 points) at Orlando City Stadium.
“We need to show some consistency now,” Kreis said. “Can we make it two in a row?”
There are some factors working against Orlando City. Saturday’s game will be the Lions’ third in six days, having lost in Portland on Sunday before returning home for Wednesday night’s victory.
Midfielder Cristian Higuita will sit out again, recovering from a calf injury. Kreis said Friday afternoon that he “is not quite there yet.”
Dallas is highly motivated and broke a 10-game winless streak with a 2-0 victory over the Colorado Rapids. That game also was played on Wednesday, however, so it has been a short turnaround with travel for the Texas side fighting for a playoff spot.
“Right now, 100 percent of the focus is just on rest, recovery and regeneration,” Kreis said after a light training session Friday. “The majority of the work comes from watching video and preparing as best we can tactically for Dallas.
“It’s a very, very dangerous team. I think they’ve gone through a really difficult patch, but in my mind it’s as really high quality team with a lot of high, high quality players. So, we need to be prepared for their best. We know — I think we feel the same way — that we just caught a little bit of confidence in this last game. I think you’re going to see two teams going after it tomorrow and two teams that have a new, fresh sense of energy and belief.”
Dallas enters the match at sixth in the West, the final playoff position, and is tied in points with No. 5 Real Salt Lake. But, the clubs also are just one point above No. 7 Houston, meaning this game could have severe repercussions if Dallas walks away with nothing.
Despite the recent freefall, Dallas was the 2016 U.S. Open Cup champion and Supporters Shield winner. The squad has a strong midfield that features U.S. men’s national team standout Kellyn Acosta; Mauro Diaz, who has worked his way back from an Achilles injury over the last few months; Michael Barrios, who leads the team with 14 assists; and Roland Lamah, who has nine goals this season.
“We know they’re a good attacking team,” Lions midfielder Richie Laryea said. “They have a lot of good players in midfield and attacking third. We just have to be aware of some of the special players they have.”
Orlando City is ninth in the East, five points behind the sixth-place New York Red Bulls, who have a game in hand. Though the Lions mathematically have not been eliminated from playoff contention, there is little chance they can advance to the postseason.
After finding success against New England with a lineup that looked a bit different and featured Kaká as a striker alongside Dom Dwyer and leading scorer Cyle Larin (12 goals) on the bench, Kreis said he is seriously considering putting out the same starting XI. Kaká leads the team in assists (5) and is now second in goals (6).
“We haven’t been able to see video of Dallas, but we did practice what we did and what we were effective with in the New England game: to be clinical in front of goal, to keep the ball,” Orlando City midfielder Yoshimar Yotún said. “And mostly we’ve been focusing on ourselves. We showed we can get good results Wednesday. … If we do the same, we’ll be able to get results not only Saturday but the rest of the season.”