Orlando City To Tie Up Play Off Place In Charleston?

Filed under: Orlando City Soccer |

In the start of what promises to be a busy and tiring eight days, Orlando City Soccer Club is heading north to South Carolina for a match against the Charleston Battery tomorrow night that carries with it major playoff implications.  With a win or draw, the Lions will clinch a place in the USL PRO playoffs and fresh off a convincing 4-0 win against Rochester Rhinos last weekend the Lions will be looking to keep Head Coach Adrian Heath in a happy frame of mind.

When the Lions and Battery meet, history tends to be made.  Last season, Orlando became the first lower-division team to defeat the Battery at home in the U.S. Open Cup.  Later in the season, the Lions won their first regular season title by defeating the Battery in two consecutive games.  Just two weeks later, the Lions won their first ever playoff game by defeating the Battery.  It is only fitting that history is again on the line, with the Lions able to clinch their second consecutive trip to the playoffs on Thursday night.

This season, the Battery have tangled with Orlando just once, June 9 at the Citrus Bowl.  The Lions emerged from the hard-fought match with a 2-1 victory.  The match was a typical Orlando/Charleston affair, with both defenses battling strong offenses, each looking to spring the counterattack by releasing to speedy wingers and forwards.  Tomorrow’s match should be more of the same.

Going into Thursday’s match, the Lions and Battery sit in first and second place in the USL PRO table.  Teams typically climb the standings by having a better home record than away record, but that isn’t the case with the Battery.  Their home record is nearly identical to their road record, with the club losing three games a piece both at and away from Blackbaud Stadium.  Against Orlando City, the Battery hold a 1-1 record at Blackbaud.  On Thursday, something will have to give.

The match is not only a clash of the top two teams in USL PRO, it is also a match-up of the league’s leading goal scorers.  Orlando’s Dennis Chin sits second in the league with eight goals.  Charleston’s Nicki Paterson is first with nine.  In addition to chasing Patterson, Chin is also chasing team history.  The club record for goals is nine, set by Max Griffin last year.  The Rollins alum has a penchant for scoring big goals against Charleston.  His last was the game-winner that eliminated the Battery from the 2011 playoffs.

The Lions will be the first team to clinch a spot in the USL PRO playoffs with either a win or a draw on Thursday.  Should Orlando win, they will also be in position to clinch a first round bye, pending the results around the league.  If both Harrisburg and Rochester drop points this week, the Lions will be able to clinch their spot.  Harrisburg plays road two matches this week (Wednesday and Friday), increasing the chances that they will drop points.

Thursday’s match will be broadcast on USLNation.com, the USL’s free online video streaming service.  Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.  Tonight’s Harrisburg match and Saturday’s Rochester match will also be shown on the service, allowing fans to see first-hand if the Lions clinch a bye this weekend.

Player to Watch – Jamie Watson:

Dennis Chin may be chasing Nicki Patterson for the league lead in goals, but there is another Lion that is just as likely to score against Charleston.  Jamie Watson has two goals on the season, but his last came against the Battery.  In the last four meetings with Charleston, Watson has scored three times.  At this point last season, Watson began to catch fire.  With his goal scoring history against Charleston, this may be the game he starts his late-season push.

Following on from the Chareston game, Orlando then faces a busy week as they face Wilmington Hammerheads on 25th, a return fixture with Charleston Battery on 27th and then an international friendly game against English Premier League side Stoke City on 28th. Tickets for all games are available from www.OrlandoCitySoccer.com

Here’s some video from last week’s game against Rochester Rhinos :

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Photos from last weeks game can be found at FloridaLeisurePhotography.com


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