Orlando City SC has entered MLS with a massive boom; giant crowds, fans plastered in purple, etc.. The positives of course predominately being on the business side of the club, which may seem obvious given Orlando’s status as an expansion team, but their poor form will continue without intervention. Sure, they racked up their first win on the road, but it certainly was a fluky goal. However, they truly have been a team struggling to put together their offense — a common issue for expansion sides — and without posing a legitimate threat on goal we’ll see them struggle to rack up points again this weekend when they head to Montreal.
Lack of Plan B
Their current Plan A is to really get their DP playmaker, Kaka, involved in the attack as much possible. They are choosing to build this offense on the ground with short passing and tons of movement and interchange in the attacking third. Regardless if this is the right system for them to employ, they lack the ability or depth to adjust. Vancouver clogged up the middle the midfield and dared Orlando to use the flanks, which they tried — combined, Shea and Ramos had 12 crosses, but zero chances created. Expect Montreal to do the same this weekend, as we’ve seen them display an extremely organized and compact defensive shell during the Champions League so far this year.
Lack of Composure
By now, we’ve all likely seen the Kekuta Manneh foul that should have been a red card. However, even prior to this no-call, we saw a team aggrieved and frustrated often yelling and gesticulating at the ref for calls. Part of this can be explained as a masterful display of gamesmanship from Vancouver to close out the game, but the possibly more concerning factor is the discouraged husk of an impotent team. To truly grow, veterans like Aurelien Collin will need to keep his team focused by not becoming overly passionate during a game’s trying moments. The late foul that gave Vancouver the winning set-piece can be explained by frustration and a lack of focus, staying organized for that kick –which was very poor for Pedro Morales standards, would’ve allowed Orlando to walk away with at least a clean sheet.
This weekend is another reminder of the imperfect MLS schedule. League games being held during an international break means teams will lose their best players, and none has been hit harder than Orlando, literally. They lead the league in call-ups losing seven players this weekend, including both starting fullbacks (Shea and Ramos) and starting attacking midfielder Kevin Molino. Also, some of their players are battling illness or injuries. This obstacle will be too large for a club struggling with depth as is common with expansion rosters.
The game is obviously yet to take place, so anything could happen. We could see Collin captain a composed, winning performance. We could see one of the bench players shining in the absence of so many starters. We could Adrian Heath try a more direct approach and surpass the midfield altogether. But I wouldn’t bet on it.