This past weekend, I compared Orlando City Designated Player Kaká's first ten games in Major League Soccer with other players who were transitioning from the top European leagues to the American league. Despite a few rough games early for the Brazilian, the stats showed that he is right on par with the other greats who have moved to MLS. To punctuate how well Kaká did in his first ten MLS games, he had his best game in an Orlando City jersey Sunday evening.
As a follow-up to that post, today we are going to compare Orlando City's first ten expansion season games with those of other MLS expansion clubs. How do we stack up against other clubs who were in a similar situation?
I am only considering teams introduced to the league after 2005. The league experienced a fair amount of growth and contraction before this period, not to mention the MLS game and league were not as evolved as they are in the more modern period.
The eight other clubs brought into the league since 2005 are Chivas USA, Real Salt Lake, Toronto FC, Seattle Sounders, Vancouver Whitecaps, Portland Timbers, Montreal Impact, and New York City FC. I've chosen not to include San Jose Earthquakes due to the complicated nature of the club's origins, with the original San Jose Clash moving to Houston and a new club called the Earthquakes appearing in their place.
If you create a league table of these clubs, Orlando stands in a very modest sixth place.
Here are a few takeaways: First, the alarm bells ringing in the supporter circles were not unwarranted. This is a humble position to be in for a club that has always excelled. Compared to other clubs coming up from USL, they are only better than Vancouver, and some distance behind the Timbers, Sounders, and Impact.
Second, we are faring far better than our fellow 2015 inaugural season friends at NYCFC. This is the only club in which a direct comparison can be made, and this one favors Orlando City. Despite our struggles, NYCFC has struggled even more.
As supporters, we know how close some of our losses have been. Until the Columbus Crew game, I would argue we were competitive and unlucky in all our early season matches. Those results could turn this (and the present day MLS table) a bit sideways with upstart Orlando in a much higher position.
Finally, these stats represent the first ten games of the season. The eleventh game was, of course, this past weekend's goal fiesta against LA Galaxy. Orlando City played them off the pitch. If it had been a boxing match, the ref would have called it. Looking at the above table and seeing just how Orlando compares to other inaugural teams, the result against LA was necessary to put the season back on track.
Just how big was the win against the reigning MLS Cup Champions? Only four of the other expansion teams have ever beaten a MLS Cup holder in their opening seasons, and none by such a decisive margin.
Orlando will have to hope the big win against LA keeps the momentum in their favor if they want to become only the second of these clubs to make the playoffs in their inaugural year. The other was the Sounders.
Look for updates to this expansion club table as the season progresses and we will see how Orlando City's first MLS campaign compares historically to other first year clubs.