The Black-and-Red come home to Audi Field this weekend ready to begin their three-match homestand which will see them host Orlando City SC, the Portland Timbers, and the New England Revolution in an eight-day span. This will be the third time United have met Orlando in 2018, with the sides' first meeting in their season opener on March 3, and a second matchup coming in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup at the Maryland SoccerPlex in June.
When United trekked to Orlando City Stadium to begin their 2018 campaign, they picked up a point on the road thanks to Yamil Asad's first-ever goal for the Black-and-Red. It looked like the visitors would leave with all three points until Orlando's Stéfano Pinho scored in stoppage time to leave the match a 1-1 draw.
The Eastern Conference sides met again in the Open Cup on June 20 and battled to another 1-1 draw at the SoccerPlex. This time it was Luciano Acosta who found the back of the net for the Black-and-Red, while Justin Meram scored the 16th-minute equalizer for Orlando. The match progressed to penalty kicks when neither team was able to find a breakthrough in extra time. United scored on two of their four penalty attempts, but Orlando converted four of their five shots, sending the Lions through to the next round.
Orlando will be without a number of key players in comparison to when United last faced the Floridians. The Lions traded away playmaker Justin Meram to the Columbus Crew at the beginning of August, while dangerous midfielder Yoshimar Yotún will be suspended for Sunday's match due to a red card in his last game. Dom Dwyer, who leads Orlando with 10 goals this season, will attempt to serve as the visitors' offensive spark at Audi Field, but Orlando have had 15 different players score across all competitions this season. The breadth of goalscorers sets a new record for the club, and means United must be prepared to tightly defend the entirety of the Lions' lineup, not just their top attackmen.
The Lions are in need of a win—they have not won since July 14, and have not won on the road in MLS competition since April 29—but United have added motivation of their own as Orlando are one of the teams within reach they're currently chasing in the Eastern Conference. If the Black-and-Red pick up three points on Sunday, they will be within two points of Orlando, and within two points of Toronto and Chicago should they both lose this weekend. United have the opportunity to secure nine points by next Sunday, which could result in a sizable jump up the standings depending on results around the league.
Offensive production remains Ben Olsen's side's strength, especially with the acquisition of Wayne Rooney and the recent play of Yamil Asad and Luciano Acosta. Defensive resolve continues to be the common difference between three points and a loss—when United find success disrupting opponents in the final third, they are often able to outscore their opponents en route to victory. With this week's additions of goalkeeper Bill Hamid and defender Vytas adding more depth to United's defense, D.C. fans hope the stretch of upcoming home matches will allow United's offensive and defensive efforts to click at the same time.
Click here to secure tickets to Sunday's showdown at brand-new Audi Field, or tune in to FS1 at 8 PM ET to watch as the Black-and-Red go for their third win at their new home.