A regular-season victory can't ever really atone for a postseason defeat, but it can certainly be cathartic.
The Cityzens were knocked out of last year's Audi MLS Cup Playoffs by the Lions, coming out on the short end of one of the most memorable matches of last year's postseason that was decided by arguably the wildest penalty-kick shootout in MLS history. That match had a little bit of everything, complete with some legendary heroics from Orlando defender Rodrigo Schlegel, who made a crucial save in the decisive shootout after being forced into goalkeeping duty when Pedro Gallese was shown a second yellow card for coming off his line too early.
Speaking to reporters on a video call ahead of Saturday's matchup, NYCFC defender Anton Tinnerholm said that a victory in the rematch would sooth at least some of the residual sting from that painful playoff exit.
"All of us, we're not really over last year," Tinnerholm said. "It was a brutal game for all of us and how it ended. Especially for me, I was forced to be subbed off in overtime ... We don't have very good memories from that game, but now we're stepping into the game on Saturday here to do something. We [have] some revenge to take. You're going to see all the guys, they're going to really want to win the game from the first minute. I can't expect anything else."
FULL PENALTY SHOOTOUT: Orlando City vs New York City FC in Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs
NYCFC head coach Ronny Deila agreed that some of the disappointment from that defeat still lingers, but added that he feels the performance on the whole would be good enough to get a result most times if they find a way to replicate it.
"We didn't deserve to lose that game," Deila said. "We should have won it. So it's frustrating when you come out of that game going out [of the playoffs]. We go down there to win, of course, but at the same time we know we meet a really good football team. But if we can put out a performance like we did last time, we have a really good chance to win because we should have won."
As for the revenge factor, Deila said it's more about seeing where his team stacks up against an opponent that is considered a fellow Eastern Conference frontrunner. The Lions have yet to lose in league play through three matches, with one win and two draws, while NYCFC are second on the table at 2W-0D-1L.
"Maybe, maybe," Deila said. "I don't think that way. Revenge for me is not always a positive thing. I think it's another game, though. Orlando is a good team. They behave in a good way, so nothing against them at all. It's competitive and it's two good teams who meet again and you see also already in the league that they haven't lost so far. We have done quite well, so that's going to be a top-quality MLS game.
"For me, it's about team spirit, it's about togetherness, it's about being brave, it's about being ourselves. You do that and then Orlando has to play at a very high level to beat us."