There have been a few times this season that the Lions have wanted a rematch after a tough loss, but maybe never more so than after their game against Toronto FC.
“It was one of those [games] that if everyone could get their legs under them, I would’ve wanted to play them the next day,” said goalkeeper Tally Hall.
Though the score wasn't in their favor, a few bounces either way could have resulted in a much different outcome.
“A penalty, a good free kick, a weird deflection-header-kick and a breakdown when we’re trying to get something back,” said Hall. “The Toronto game was frustrating but I never felt like they outplayed us.”
Orlando City trails Toronto in the playoff race by just three points – a single victory. Those three points are up for grabs on Saturday.
The Lions have gone through a bit of a rough patch lately, but they’ve gotten help from around the league. Since their win, Toronto has dropped two straight. The Impact have one point in their last two games. Their own results haven’t gone the Lions’ way, but their playoff competitors’ haven’t either.
“The incredible thing is that we’re still in it. It’s strange that we’re now in a situation where we’re not really worse off than we were three weeks ago in terms of points. We’re still within a shout of it,” said head coach Adrian Heath after Tuesday’s training.
The Lions’ attack will get a huge boost for Saturday’s game, too. Speedy defender Rafael Ramos will be back in action after missing five games with a thigh injury. Ramos’ technical ability and lethal crosses will spark the attack and kick-start the push for the playoffs.
“It’s a boost because of the way he plays. But not only that, his attitude is something that I think a lot of our players can look at. He’s gone over the marker a few times. Call me old fashioned, but I’d rather have that than me having to work people into a frenzy to play like that,” said Heath.
That’s high praise for the 20-year-old, but it’s not without cause. Before his injury, Ramos had started and played a full 90 minutes in every game since his ejection for an over-zealous challenge in Columbus on April 18 – a growing pain for a kid playing in just his sixth MLS game. He’s matured and grown in much the same way the Lions have, and despite their own growing pains, their goal for their first MLS season is still within reach.
“We have to believe every time we play. Obviously we’ve forgotten about the weekend now. We will work on the stuff that we need to work on, but we have to go again,” said Heath. “That’s the nature of the game. You don’t feel sorry for yourself. You have to get yourself together, dust yourself down, and go again.”