Sat, 23 Oct 2021

Short-handed Orlando City SC to face scuffling Union

Field Level Media
19 Sep 2021, 04:40 GMT+10

Orlando City SC will be without their best player and captain as they try to earn a much-needed result in their visit to the Philadelphia Union on Sunday afternoon.

Nani, who leads Orlando (10-6-8, 38 points) with nine goals and is second in assists with seven, received two yellow cards and a subsequent red before halftime of his club's 4-2 home loss to CF Montreal.

That means he'll be suspended for the Lions' visit to Philadelphia (8-7-8, 32 points), a team they defeated 2-1 in Florida on July 22.

Orlando City have been dealt half of their eight losses in games without the former Manchester United and Portugal star, and two more in games where he has been limited to less than a full half of action.

And the club is in arguably its worst form of the season after back-to-back losses by multiple goals. In the latter, the Lions overcame an early two-goal deficit only to concede twice late. They also lost Andres Pareja to a red card in that one and finished with nine men.

"First, apologize for our performance," head coach Oscar Pareja said. "Not just because the game became messy with all these incidents and things but because we're much more than that."

Philadelphia nonetheless will envy Orlando's third-place position in an increasingly tight Eastern Conference playoff race.

The Union entered play on Saturday in ninth -- two spots adrift of the playoff line -- after balancing the regular season with the CONCACAF Champions League commitments for most of the regular season.

That Champions League run ended Wednesday in a 2-0 loss during Leg 2 of their semifinal against Mexico's Club America.

That means the defending Supporters' Shield holders can now focus solely on league play, where the performances have lagged of late.

The Union are winless in three league games and have scored only four goals in their last seven games in all competitions. Kacper Przybylko hasn't built on his team-leading scoring total since scoring during the team's final game in July.

Still, manager Jim Curtin believes his team are capable of doing damage if they can improve their form and qualify for the second season.

"We have to get in, that's our goal," Curtin said. "It's not necessarily who's the hottest team right now, it's who's the hottest team in October and November who lift that cup."

--Field Level Media

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