Atlanta United felt they had to win on Wednesday. They left Exploria Stadium victims of a 4-1 drubbing, Orlando City scrubbing away three years of history in 90 minutes.
While this next fixture might not be quite so drenched in emotion, the Lions face a similarly desperate opponent on Sunday night.
The Montreal Impact are right in the thick of the race for the final two spots in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Their cushion, once fairly robust, is down to two points over the three teams directly below them, and one (Chicago) possesses a game in hand. The margin for error is slim to none.
But while Montreal will look to seize the game, Oscar Pareja’s Orlando City don’t exactly back down from their intent to exert their will.
“As I said last week about urgency, at this point I think we are all in that mode of trying to, whether it be to clinch or position ourselves better towards the playoffs,” said Pareja at Friday’s pre-match press conference. “We’re expecting Montreal with that as well, with the necessity to win the game and we feel the same. We think that this is the time where we need to turn ourselves into our best and try to get three points.”
There is plenty on the line for Orlando, too. While the Lions have long since clinched a spot in the field, they need to hold off New York City FC for a spot in the East’s top 4 and a quarterfinal game at Exploria Stadium.
Orlando City haven’t exactly suffered away from home, though. Six of the Lions’ 12 games unbeaten from August 26 to October 18 were on the road, and Orlando have taken ten points from their past seven away games overall.
When asked why his team has had so much success outside Orlando, Pareja said, “I’ll say the desire of the players to continue with that protagonism whether we play here or away, or we’re playing in our stadium or a different stadium, we want to go play for the three points and that gives them a lot of personality. The results away have been very good this year for sure.”
Orlando City’s final away game of the 2020 regular season kicks off at 7:30 pm on Sunday night, with pre-game coverage beginning on FOX35 Plus at 7 pm. Radio coverage will be available on Real Radio 104.1 in English and Acción 97.9 FM in Spanish.