(Photo credit: Morgan Tencza-USA TODAY Sports)
Orlando City SC and New York City FC have a long history since they joined Major League Soccer as expansion cousins in 2015.
As the Lions travel to New York and Citi Field on Wednesday, they do so as favorites, looking to hold onto a top-four spot in the Eastern Conference.
Despite being undefeated in three matches, NYCFC (6-10-13, 31 points) have won only twice in their past 20 league matches, while Orlando (14-6-8, 50 points) comes into the midweek clash riding a run that has seen them lose only twice in 18 outings. The Lions are 5-0-1 in their past six.
On Saturday, Orlando fought back from a 3-1 deficit against the Columbus Crew, capturing a 4-3 victory with the comeback powered by three goals after the 73rd minute. Ramiro Enrique had both the 86th-minute tying goal and 97th-minute winner.
Sitting second in the conference, Orlando will look to hold onto their advantageous position against New York City, with Uruguayan forward Facundo Torres leading the attack with 12 goals in 25 appearances. Should he find the back of the net, he would move into third place in Orlando City SC franchise all-time scoring, trailing only Nani and Cyle Larin.
"(Our form) is important because it shows that the team is ready to play in playoffs, which is the most important when the playoff is coming," Orlando midfielder Mauricio Pereyra said after the win over Columbus.
NYCFC find themselves in the thick of a playoff race, sitting 12th in the conference, four points back of D.C. United (35 points) for the ninth and final playoff spot. They enter the midweek clash off a scoreless draw in the Hudson River Derby against the New York Red Bulls.
"Every game is going to have a playoff feel to it for us, and it should because every point and every win is critical," NYCFC head coach Nick Cushing said. "We will be as practical as possible to make sure that we can win as many points and just take one game as it goes."
After Wednesday, both teams will have a quick turnaround to the weekend, with New York City looking ahead to hosting last-place Toronto FC while Orlando welcomes Lionel Messi's Inter Miami.
--Field Level Media