As we all know, Orlando has one match to go. Hopefully the current form will either see a miracle and gain the goal differential needed to reach the playoffs, or at least another win. But first let's look at how we got here today. Previously in the season The Mane Land took a look at the runs of form throughout the season the team went through. This piece looks to explain what exactly could have led to the form that the team saw at that time.
Let's first talk about the Major League Soccer season and how each team plays 34 matches in MLS play, we looked to break that up into four acts in a season: the first and last both representing nine matches and the middle part of the season being broken up into two acts represented by eight matches each. This way we can catch how a team performs throughout the year. Below is a look at the four acts of the season and how Orlando performed in each one.
The beginning of the year saw Orlando play nine matches with five of those being at home. Unfortunately they only garnered nine points from all nine matches, having a lowly points per game of 1. What could possibly explain this slow start--especially when the team played over half the games in Orlando.
One explanation could be that Orlando played a very difficult schedule to start the season. Of the nine matches seven of those came against current playoff bound teams, only NYCFC and the Houston Dynamo were teams that Orlando faced in this act that are not headed to the playoffs. Consider that and notice that of the nine points earned over this period, four of those points came against these two teams. However, outside of the competition faced, Orlando had a full compliment of players during this time and even enjoyed playing more than half the matches at home, but the level of competition seemed to overwhelm Orlando at the start of the season.
After starting the season slow, here Orlando picked up the pace, carrying a strong run of form over the next eight matches, earning 14 points (1.75ppg) over that time frame. Still, in a league where 60 percent of the teams make the playoffs, Orlando again played five out of these eight matches against playoff bound teams. This begs the question of whether this is a common thread throughout the year, and yes Orlando has played above the league average of games against playoff bound competition, sitting at 65 percent of games played being against those currently moving on.
So, what could have explained the run of form for Orlando during this time? Well here Orlando beat the teams that they needed to, won three out of four home matches and drew the other, gaining 10 out of those 14 points at home. They also beat Chicago in Chicago and drew San Jose away. So the difference from Orlando in Act One and Act Two? Easy: they played well at home.
By far this is the part of the story that most people will cringe about. Orlando during this time gained a total of five points over eight matches (.6 ppg) and not only saw themselves drop from 2nd overall in the East but they saw themselves drop almost outside playoff consideration.
Why then for the abysmal play? Well there are quite a few reasons that could be attributed to Orlando's lack of points during this time, they not only had a string red cards, but they were also hit with injuries. There were times during this stretch that Orlando could barely call the product that was being put on the field competitive.
If only Orlando could have found this form earlier, 16 points over eight games is not just astounding, it is a little upsetting as most fans know that Orlando has had this capability all season and we really have only seen it once outside the past four weeks.
In Orlando's final act of its inaugural season we have seen the emergence of Cyle Larin, Bryan Rochez and Carlos Rivas as these three young players have shown exactly why they were either drafted first overall or signed as young DP's. Also during this time, Brek Shea returned from injury, and he has been a terror as other teams have not been able to contend the pace of Shea and Rivas.
So with one game to go and more than a long shot to make the playoffs, here is hoping to Orlando getting six wins in a row and playing like we know they can, and maybe just maybe the soccer gods will help us out a little bit so we can make up a large disparity in goal differential.