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Halfway Mark: Orlando City Exceeding Expansion Expectations

For 17 games, Orlando City's expansion season has provided highs and lows for fans cheering on the men in purple. However, the Lions are having one of the better years in MLS expansion history and look poised to make a run for the postseason.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The first 17 games of Orlando City's MLS existence has been a rollercoaster of emotions -- a season of highs and lows, signature victories and disappointing losses. It’s been a season that, at times, has shown the resolve of the team, while also showing the work that still needs to be done for an expansion team trying to take the next step in Major League Soccer.

However, at the halfway point of the season, Orlando City SC has exceeded expectations of where a club would typically be midway through their first year in MLS.

When looking at the 11 other first-year teams since the MLS’s expansion/relocation push in 2005, Orlando City (6-6-5) has a better record than nine of the squads through 17 games: Chivas USA (1-13-3); Real Salt Lake (3-10-4); Toronto FC (5-8-4); San Jose Earthquakes (3-9-5); Philadelphia Union (4-10-3); Vancouver Whitecaps (2-7-8); Portland Timbers (5-9-3); Montreal Impact (5-9-3) and New York City FC (4-8-5). Only Houston Dynamo (8-3-6) and Seattle Sounders (7-3-7) had better records than the Lions. Both teams made the playoffs in their first year, something Orlando City is also poised to do, sitting in a third-place tie in the Eastern Conference (giving up games in hand to Toronto FC and New York Red Bulls, but holding games in hand on New England Revolution).

The Lions have shown they can play with the best MLS has to offer. OCSC played their best game of the season May 17, when they defeated the LA Galaxy, 4-0. They also had a big win on the road against Portland on April 12, defeating the Timbers, 2-0.

Orlando City has also shown resolve at points throughout the season, bouncing back from adversity to either tie or win games. After going down 2-0 in the first half at Montreal, Orlando City’s Kaká and Pedro Ribeiro scored two goals in less than two minutes, ultimately tying the March 28 contest. In a May 8 match against New England, Orlando City rallied back from a 2-0 deficit against New England with goals from Cyle Larin and Aurelien Collin in the 75th and 89th minutes, respectively. The Lions seemed to turn a switch on late in the game, played with a determination and tenacity known of teams coached by Adrian Heath.

However, Orlando City’s best comeback win came June 6 against Chicago. After a first half that saw Kennedy Igboananike score less than 10 minutes into the game and an own-goal by Adailton that was forced by Ribeiro's strength, Orlando City seemed to be put away with sluggish play and a David Accam goal in the 57th minute. However, Orlando City rallied back with a goal from Larin and another own goal from Adailton -- this time set up by the movement of Carlos Rivas and Larin -- to earn three points in a match that tested the cardiac strength of fans from The City Beautiful.

Orlando City SC has grown as the season progresses and, while they will continue to seek cohesion among passing and defensive rotations, the team has shown what they can do in big games and when facing adversity.

Based on history, the Lions have also shown that they are exceeding expectations lofted onto an expansion team.