Orlando City embarks on the final stretch of the 2021 MLS Regular Season this Saturday, taking on FC Cincinnati at TQL Stadium (7:30 p.m. ET, FOX35 PLUS/LionNation TV). The Lions are right in the thick of a packed Eastern Conference and there are a ton of moving parts at play to determine if and where Orlando City will finish in the playoff pecking order.
So to try and keep track of things, it’s time to officially launch the In the Hunt Tracker, as we get a hold on every game with implications for Orlando City’s playoff push. Here’s a quick update on where things stand going into MLS Week 30 (New England has already clinched the No. 1 seed; tiebreakers are total wins, then goal difference):
2. Nashville SC - 47 pts, 11 wins, +20 GD
3. Philadelphia Union - 45 pts, 12 wins, +11 GD
4. Orlando City - 42 pts, 11 wins, 0 GD
5. D.C. United - 40 pts, 12 wins, +8 GD
6. New York City FC - 40 pts, 11 wins, +12 GD
7. CF Montréal - 40 pts, 11 wins, +3 GD
8. Atlanta United - 39 pts, 10 wins, +4 GD
9. New York Red Bulls - 37 pts, 10 wins, +4 GD
Onto the games:
CF Montréal (7th, 40 pts) vs. Philadelphia Union (3rd, 45 pts)
Saturday 10/16, 1 p.m.
Philadelphia was right in the midst of the teams ranked below Orlando until a run over the last few weeks. Since being knocked out of the CONCACAF Champions League on September 15, the Union are 4-0-1, most recently winning away to FC Cincinnati last weekend during the international break. It was the first away win for Philadelphia since May 23, ending a nearly five-month drought.
Philly will have to bring it up in Canada, where CF Montréal has been one of the surprises of the season under first-year head coach Wilfried Nancy. Attacking midfielder Djordje Mihailovic ranks second in MLS with 13 assists.
D.C. United (5th, 40 pts) vs. Nashville SC (2nd, 47 pts)
Saturday 10/16, 7:30 p.m.
One of two relevant games happening alongside Orlando/Cincy, this one features the last two teams Orlando City faced. The Lions took points off both in second-half stoppage time, leaving both sides smarting a bit going into this matchup.
D.C. took the worst of it, seeing a prized away point slip away thanks to Daryl Dike’s 97th-minute winner at Exploria Stadium on October 2. The Black and Red have been a revelation under Hernán Losada, though, and their 10 home wins rank second in the conference behind only the league-leading Revolution. Nashville is 3-1-2 in its last six away games and currently has the inside track for two guaranteed playoff home games, though its position has not been strengthened by a run of three straight draws, including the Orlando game on September 29.
Toronto FC (13th, 25 pts) vs. Atlanta United (8th, 39 pts)
Saturday 10/16, 7:30 p.m.
Toronto are well out of the race, sitting 15 points below the red line with six to play. But Orlando fans will hope they’ve found something when they host the Five Stripes, a team that looked dead in the water in July but has rallied to get back into the race over the last several months. Atlanta has scuffled a bit in recent weeks, though, and star striker Josef Martínez picked up a knock in their last match and still hasn’t rejoined full training as of this writing.
New York Red Bulls (9th, 37 pts) vs. NYCFC (6th, 40 pts)
Sunday 10/17, 1 p.m.
Now here’s an interesting one. The Red Bulls took it on the chin through most of July and August, but they’ve surged in September, and a win here would get them above their Hudson River rivals on a tiebreaker. RBNY has made the playoffs in 11 consecutive seasons going back to 2010, and a win this weekend is crucial to extending that run any further.
NYCFC, meanwhile, remains analytical darlings but have struggled to convert all those chances and expected goals into results. The Pigeons are 1-4-3 in their last eight matches, with their only win coming against FC Cincinnati on September 18.
In the Hunt Rooting Guide for Week 30
DCvNSH: draw or Nashville win
TORvATL: Toronto win
RBNYvNYC: draw or RBNY win