Orlando City SC’s acquisition of Dom Dwyer was one of the most high-profile intra-league transactions in MLS history, and one that the Lions brass hoped would propel the club to their first playoff appearance. He's only appeared in a couple of games, but so far that hasn't exactly happened.
Orlando drew their first game with Dwyer at Atlanta and followed it up by a losing at Montreal after taking an early lead at Stade Saputo. They lost again on Saturday night at Red Bull Arena without Dwyer, who was out after having surgery on his nose.
In terms of their probability of reaching the playoffs, Saturday night’s match against Columbus Crew SC could not be any bigger (7:30 pm ET; MLS LIVE). Columbus currently sit in seventh place in the Eastern Conference in points per game with 1.4 per match. Orlando are in ninth with 1.25 points per game and have a game in hand on Crew SC.
What’s troubling for Orlando is not only that they have won only twice since April 29, but also that Montreal continues their rise up the Eastern Conference standings. After their win on Wednesday night against the Chicago Fire, the Impact moved above the playoff line in terms of points per game, as they now sit on 1.43 PPG. Their rise has lowered Orlando's playoff hopes, with the Lions odds of making the postseason dropping from 11 percent to 10 after Wednesday night.
Saturday night’s match at Orlando City Stadium will have much bigger consequences on the Lions' playoff probabilities. FiveThirtyEight’s Soccer Power Index shows that a loss will virtually extinguish any shot they have of getting above the playoff line.
As you can see, a loss would mean they would only have a 3 percent chance of making the playoffs when Monday rolls around. A win would keep their hopes alive. Still, FiveThirtyEight's forecasts give Columbus the best shot at claiming the final spot at 46 percent while Montreal have a 41 percent chance and the New England Revolution are pegged 20 percent.
It should be noted that Orlando’s remaining opponents have the lowest average PPG among the five teams vying for the final playoff spot in the East, but when you’ve only won twice in four months, that doesn’t mean much. Anything but a win against Crew SC will basically end Orlando’s season, making it one of the first must-win situations of 2017.
Saturday night’s match is clearly a big one in the East playoff race. There will be more to come over the final two months of the season, some of which you can find below:
- September 2 – New England Revolution vs. Orlando City SC
- September 9 – New England Revolution vs. Montreal Impact
- September 27 – Orlando City SC vs. New England Revolution
- October 15 – Orlando City SC vs. Columbus Crew SC
- October 22 – Montreal Impact vs. New England Revolution