The Union, still needing a win to clinch a playoff spot, host the hapless Lions on Sunday.
For the Lions, this match is about pride: they’ve already been knocked out of the playoff hunt. Some of them are playing for jobs as the front office figures out how to tweak things for next year. For the Union, the story is the same as last match: a win virtually guarantees a playoff spot. New England could theoretically catch the Union in points but would need to make up twelve goals in differential in two games to take the tiebreak. A playoff appearance would be the first since 2011 for the U, the longest such streak and a dubious one at that.
Orlando City has never beaten the Union, going 0-2-2 in their four meetings. On April 9th this year in Chester, Tranquillo Barnetta hit his first golazo of the year, a gorgeous free kick from outside the box that froze goalkeeper Joe Bendik as it kissed off of the underside of the bar and went in to win the match 2-1 late. A month and a half later in Florida, the two teams came together for a 2-2 draw which saw four second-half goals and some unfortunate officiating for the Union, as the officials ruled for an Orlando goal even though it appeared the ball had not crossed the line totally.
This is a team the Union should beat like a drum at home. They don’t want to leave their playoff fate in the hands of the last week and a match with the Red Bulls. A win here and they don’t have to worry about it. A tie isn’t terrible pending other results, but a loss could be potentially very damaging. They need this win.
Prediction: the Union have never taken less than three points from Orlando in Chester, and they won’t on Sunday. They clinch their first playoff berth in five years. Union 2, Lions 1