The idiom "home is where the heart is" is nowhere more true than in the world of soccer. The best teams in the league win at home and draw away to take titles. An example: in the last three seasons of the English Premier League, the league champions have only lost a combined total of six home games out of 57. That is a home win percentage of 96.58%.
Now, I am not saying that Orlando City should be striving for a 96+ win percentage at home during its first season in MLS, however if the team wants to achieve its goal of making the playoffs, points have to start coming at home. So why haven't the wins come so far?
One thing for sure is it's not due to the lack of support from fans. Our reported attendances for the first 5 games of the season are as follows:
Orlando City v New York City FC - 62,510
Orlando City v Vancouver Whitecaps - 31,072
Orlando City v D.C. United - 32,822
Orlando City v Toronto F.C - 30,908
Orlando City v NE Revolution - 27,243
"They've got a great crowd behind them, so it's tough to play here," said New England Revolution striker Charlie Davies after Friday's match.
So why have these people, who have been chanting for 90 solid minutes, been disappointed when leaving the Citrus Bowl after five games? Well, the main concern for fans is that they have only seen three goals at home, and with two of those coming on Friday against New England, the opportunities for Orlando to win in its previous four home games before Friday have been few and far between.
Goals = wins, as our away record shows, and so, how can we start getting that winning feeling going at the Citrus Bowl when our next opponent, the LA Galaxy, roll into town?
The answer is twofold. One, the players need to stop letting the pressure of fan expectations get to them. We all knew that it would be tough this first season, and we as fans have incredibly high expectations, due to our phenomenal success in USL.
But MLS is not USL, and the players need to remember that. We may have a world-class player in Kaká, however, his supporting cast consists of some players that aren't even of drinking age yet (Rochez, Turner, Redding etc.), some players who hadn't been getting regular time before coming to Orlando (Ribeiro, Mwanga, Shea etc.).
Therefore, when they come to play at home in front of a rabid fan base, baying for blood and goals, against teams that are wanting to put the franchise in its place -- especially on our home turf -- that puts more pressure on the team when they run out at the Citrus Bowl, rather than when they run out at Providence Park or BBVA Compass Stadium. So, expect that when the players stop trying to please the home fans, and believe in themselves, the goals will come and once they start, they will be hard to stop.
Two, we need to change the tactics to reflect a different mentality of play whilst at home, by putting the burden on the team coming to our city. When you play at home, the onus is on the away team to come in and get the upset. When you play away, the need is to not concede and nick a goal if you can get one. These two needs require different systems and a different mentalities, and perpetuating the 4-2-3-1 formation at home isn't going to get the scoreboard changing from zero in Orlando any time soon.
The system may have been working for us previously, however, overall, opposing teams have us figured out. To break our home win duck, we have to change and de-commit and work to our strengths. The transition to a 4-4-2 diamond formation (a system that has taken RSL and many other teams to the playoffs) may get us a home W sooner rather than later.
We have overall had a good start to the season, especially since we are seeing somewhat of a resurgence in the strength of the Eastern Conference, however, one or both of these things have to happen for Orlando to finally get a home win and also for the home fans to leave jubilant rather than with thoughts of what might have been.