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As part of an attempt to raise funds and recovery efforts following the devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, Orlando City SC host the Puerto Rico National Team in a friendly at Orlando City Stadium this Saturday evening.
Dedicating 100 per cent of the net proceeds to the ‘United for Puerto Rico’ initiative, this ‘Fuerza Puerto Rico Friendly’ also marks Kaká‘s final outing in Orlando City SC purple following his recent exit announcement.
After previously facing English Premier League sides West Bromwich Albion and Stoke City midway through our 2015 and 2016 Major League Soccer campaigns, this fixture represents our first friendly against overseas opposition in 2017.
— Orlando City SC (@OrlandoCitySC) October 31, 2017
An altogether unique fixture with a club side facing an international one, Orlando is home to a significant Puerto Rican population who will relish seeing their national side go toe-to-toe with some of their local heroes.
This fixture may have proved a huge one for Orlando City SC‘s Puerto Rican back-up goalkeeper Josh Saunders who was cruelly ruled out for the rest of the 2017 MLS season with a neck injury in August.
However, the 36-year-old was last capped by Puerto Rico back in 2008 and if he was available, it would have been interesting to see which team he turned out for or whether he’d have played 45 minutes for each side!
In terms of who will feature for Orlando City SC in this fixture, we know that Kaká will be making his final appearance but the rest of the roster is something of a mystery following our miserable end to 2017.
Thumped 6-1 at Philadelphia Union in our final MLS fixture of 2017, Jason Kreis chose an experimental starting lineup at Talen Energy Stadium but this backfired with not a single fringe player putting forward a convincing argument that they deserve to remain for 2018.
Despite being a friendly fixture, this game may represent the final chance for some of those players to showcase what they can do ahead of players being released in anticipation of 2018.
Friendly head-to-head stats (2017)
Unlike our previous two Major League Soccer campaigns, all of Orlando City SC‘s 2017 friendly fixtures came prior to the league season kicking off.
With no glamour mid-season friendly this year, the Lions played all six of their warm-up fixtures in the month of February.
There was mirror imagery across the results spectrum with Orlando City SC winning, drawing and losing two games each.
Our two victories came against intercollegiate athletic team Jacksonville Dolphins (0-5) and USL outfit Saint Louis FC (3-1), the latter of which was the first unofficial fixture played at Orlando City Stadium.
Both Lions defeats (1-3 and 0-4) were inflicted by bogey side Toronto FC (surprise, surprise!) in two 90-minute back-to-back scrimmages that took place at Champions Gate in Davenport.
The draws came against Orlando City SC‘s principal rival Tampa Bay Rowdies (0-0) and fellow MLS franchise Philadelphia Union (3-3).
— Orlando City SC (@OrlandoCitySC) February 16, 2017
Philadelphia Union 3 Orlando City SC 3 – Preseason Scrimmage – February 15, 2017 (Credit: Orlando City SC)
Providing one last chance to say goodbye to the 2007 Ballon d’Or winner, it was the Brazilian who was the Lions’ joint top goalscorer in pre-season with three goals.
Scoring against Jacksonville Dolphins, Toronto FC and Saint Louis FC, hopefully he can sign off with another strike or two in this fixture.
Cyle Larin also scored three in pre-season but the Canadian international is unlikely to feature against Puerto Rico with the player admitting himself that an off-season transfer away from Central Florida is within his thinking.
No different to our Major League Soccer form, Orlando City SC friendly fixtures have contained plenty of goalmouth action too!
In our SIX friendlies played in 2017, FIVE of these games have contained OVER 2.5 GOALS.
Our most emphatic defeat was the 0-4 loss against perennial bogey side Toronto FC in the second of two scrimmages at Champions Gate.
Finding the net regularly enough was a problem that completely undermined our chances of making the 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs.
As you’d expect, Jason Kreis‘ side found it far easier to score in pre-season with the Lions scoring in FOUR of their SIX February friendlies.
Orlando City SC form
With no mid-season friendly assignments, Orlando City SC‘s last friendly came against USL outfit Saint Louis FC way back on February 25th.
Going 3-0 up in just 35 minutes, Orlando City SC made their Major League Soccer superiority tell with Milan Petosevic scoring an 89th minute consolation strike for the visitors.
Our 2017 Major League Soccer campaign was particularly disappointing and even our friendly form has left a lot to be desired!
When taking Orlando City SC‘s last FIVE friendlies into account, the Lions have only won ONE of those games – the 3-1 victory over Saint Louis FC.
Drawing games with the old enemy Tampa Bay Rowdies (0-0) and Philadelphia Union (3-3), Toronto FC got the better of us in two 90-minute scrimmages (1-3 and 0-4) at Champions Gate on February 19th.
While raising funds for Puerto Rico’s hurricane relief efforts is the overall goal here, let’s hope we can at least sign off 2017 and Kaká‘s reign in purple with a victory!
There is more room for optimism when looking at Orlando City SC‘s recent friendly record against overseas opposition.
Over 2015 and 2016, the Lions have played international friendlies against Ponte Preta (3-2), West Bromwich Albion (3-1), Stoke City (1-2) and most recently Esporte Clube Bahia (6-1).
Winning THREE of those FOUR fixtures, it will be interesting to see how a club side fares against a national one in the case of Puerto Rico.
Orlando City SC 6 Esporte Clube Bahia 1 – Friendly – February 27, 2016 (Credit: Diego Football)