Now that Orlando City's official 2015 MLS schedule has been released, we have a concrete map of who, when, and where Adrian Heath's men play in their inaugural season. Fans can begin to make travel plans and start the trash talking with more precision than before.
But what can we really expect from Orlando as the club kicks off MLS action on March 8 against New York City FC?
The opening few weeks of an expansion team's inaugural season can make or break a team's chances of a successful year. These early weeks set the tone for the season and provide a base to build on.
By looking at the initial five games from the previous five expansion teams (Seattle Sounders, Philadelphia Union, Vancouver Whitecaps, Portland Timbers, Montreal Impact), we get a snapshot of the impact the early season has in an expansion year.
In their first respective seasons, the Sounders and Timbers had the best two records following the fifth game. They also finished the season with higher point totals and overall position in the league than the other three teams in their expansion campaigns.
Generally, each of the teams prospered when they played at home. However, their cumulative road records had a bold and embarrassing 85% loss rate. With a total of 14 away games and 12 losses, only the Sounders and Timbers were able to steal points on the road.
Philadelphia, Vancouver, and Montreal, which had the worst starts of the five teams, had more wins in the second half of the season than in the first half, but were too far behind by then to push for playoffs.
The Lions have home games against New York City FC, Vancouver Whitecaps, and D.C. United in the first five games of their inaugural season. It will be vital for to take advantages of these three matches in order to kick things off for a successful campaign.
Historically, City only has a 15% chance to take points out of their away fixtures against the Houston Dynamo and Montreal Impact in the remaining two games. The climate in Montreal, on top of the distance traveled, will make a difficult time for the Florida club, so the Dynamo match-up might be the best chance to steal points.
If the Lions want to have a successful first year in Major League Soccer, then it is imperative they come out of the gate strong, and the home opener against a Lampard-less NYCFC is a golden opportunity to impact the fate of their season.