When watching Orlando play this year, whether sitting in the raucous atmosphere at The Citrus Bowl or the comfort of your own couch, you may have noticed that Orlando usually looks to be the sharper side moving the ball around the pitch. Many believe that for a team to be successful they should have strong passing skills and the ability to possess the ball. The Mane Land looks at Orlando and the numbers buried in the statistics from the season and compares the Lions to other teams around MLS in possession and passing.
First, let us take a look at a simple stat that usually shows how well a team has played: possession. Many argue that possession is the largest piece to the puzzle when it comes to earning points in soccer today. With the likes of Barcelona and Bayern Munich running rampant throughout Europe, you won't find many detractors from that mindset. But, does the same ring true for MLS?
The New York Red Bulls not only are leading MLS in the Supporters Shield race, they also hold the highest possession rate in MLS. But, do not be fooled, after the Red Bulls, three of next five teams in points are below the average possession rate in MLS (50 percent). Vancouver sits well below the average at 46.9 percent, while FC Dallas and D.C. United are also below the average possession rate.
Also, teams that are below average in the possession statistic are evenly distributed in the league standings. This may seem to quell the idea that teams with higher rates of possession will be earning more points on average. Actually, the trend for teams--when looking at the relationship between possession and points--is pretty flat, meaning possession does not directly influence how many points you have in a season.
Orlando does not measure out as the best in the league in terms of possession, but they do show a strength. They currently possess 51.1 percent of the ball on average, above the league average and good enough for 6th in MLS. Currently, the team sits below every one of those teams in total points except one: New York City FC.
A major part of the possession game is the ability for a team to pass well, to control the flow of the game through the short passes that keep the ball moving and to go direct when needed with long passes. We have seen Orlando play both the short passing game to try and pin an opponent in their own half and also play direct when on the road to try and play Cyle Larin in on goal.
The statistics show that Orlando is the best team overall in passing. The Lions not only complete the second most passes per game, behind Seattle, but they complete those passes at a higher rate, 81.8 percent. That puts them above all teams in MLS and well above the average of 77.4 percent. The graph below breaks down total passes into Short and Long passing completion ratios (SPACC=ShortPassAccuracy, LPACC=LongPassAccuracy).
Again Orlando finds themselves the best team overall when looking at short pass accuracy (SPACC) completing them at a clip of 86.6 percent. This should be evident to those loyal to OCSC as they usually try and move down the field with well connected passes, leading to chances in the final third. What may not be as recognizable is the ability the team has shown in long passing, as well; Orlando sits second in MLS within this category (52.5 percent) as well.
Ultimately, passing and possession statistics do not matter in the end unless you are earning points, but the fact that Orlando stands tall in these categories bodes well for Orlando. It shows that despite an inaugural season that may not have been ideal, Adrian Heath has built an identity within the club and they have been successful in transferring that identity onto the field. Here is to Orlando out passing and outscoring everyone moving forward.