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Charlotte FC return home to the fortress of Bank of America Stadium this Sunday for a matchup with direct playoff rival Orlando City SC.

Here are the three ingredients of the match for an important six-pointer.

Starting Strong

Starting the match strong and keeping the momentum rolling from the NYCFC victory would go a long way to securing three points for The Crown.

CLTFC is tied for the most home wins in the East for a reason – the crazy, passionate fans make Bank of America Stadium a tough place to play for opponents. Scoring the first goal would get the fans involved even more and heap pressure on the Lions, something that Head Coach Christian Lattanzio would love to see.

“We want to play in a way that makes them [the fans] proud and makes them get behind the team even more, even though they probably would be anyway! But we need to deserve that and cannot take it for granted.”

However, the opener could be even more important than just ratcheting up the crowd. Orlando have lived and died on the first goal this season. They have an impressive nine wins when scoring the first goal but an equally unimpressive zero wins and eight defeats when their opponent scores the first goal.

Starting the second half strong will also be crucial. Out of Orlando’s 22 second half goals, they have scored 50% of them (11) in the first 15 minutes after the break.

Neutralizing Outside Backs

While Orlando will be missing their usual left back, Joao Moutinho, due to yellow card suspension, they will have dangerous right back Ruan available for selection.

Both players are partially responsible for Orlando’s impressive away goals conceded record (2nd best in the league with 13), but Ruan especially is also a key attacking player for the Lions.

“We analyzed the game [2-1 loss to Orlando on April 30] and saw the fullbacks… like to push on and have a physicality. Ruan is a guy that created us a lot of problems back then in Orlando with his runs.

“So, we have to be smart in how we approach that, and we have to be ready for that challenge.”

Neutralizing the threat of Orlando City’s outside backs can be accomplished in many ways, including by pushing on CLTFC’s own outside backs to keep Ruan occupied as a defender or through the chemistry between outside back and winger in defensive situations.

Execute on Set Pieces

Orlando City SC have been lethal from offensive set pieces this year, scoring 10 goals from these dead ball situations. They already have more set piece goals than they did in 2021 (8) and are particularly dangerous from corner kicks, where they have found the back of the net five times.

Strangely, though, the Lions have simultaneously struggled on defensive set pieces. Two of their last three losses have included conceding from a corner (vs. Philadelphia and New England).

In what will likely be a tightly contested match, the game could be decided from dead balls rather than open play. Keeping Orlando off the board in these situations, and perhaps taking advantage of set piece opportunities on the other end, could be key in getting another huge result in the close race for playoff spots.

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