Let's not say this too loudly, but our Lions are quietly on a three-game unbeaten streak. One convincing win over LA Galaxy, one hard-fought draw down a man on the road in San Jose, and one frustrating draw up a man at home against Columbus have built Orlando City's longest unbeaten streak of the season.
This three-game run isn't the most thoroughly convincing unbeaten streak. Not even the most optimistic of us are thinking the Supporters Shield is ours for the taking, by any means. Still, three games without a defeat shows a quiet confidence and the club's first streak. These are the kinds of runs that do put teams into playoff contention, a goal most City supporters and staff still hold as attainable.
One major story line of this inaugural season has been a team trying to find cohesion, a group of talented individuals trying to come together to play as a team. That process hasn't always been pretty, and we remind ourselves through cliches like "Rome wasn't built in a day" that this will be a long and arduous process. Putting together three results can only help that process.
The Columbus Crew game doesn't spread a lot of confidence on its own, but for a team that has seen worse games and worse results, a draw still means you go back to the locker room with some points.
One thing I've noticed in the early season is how veteran teams, specifically D.C. United and Columbus, play as disciplined units with a powerful understanding of the MLS game. They grind out results and have found ways to get points against us even when outplayed in theory by the upstart Lions.
D.C. United found ways to grab goals against the run of play, while Columbus put on a clinic on how to play a man down. These are teams that understand that every game in MLS is competitive and every point is precious. Orlando will get to this level. I have no doubt in our players or the management style of Adrian Heath. It will just take time, one game after another, with small subtle improvements.
This weekend is another chance for the club to continue the process.
Saturday, the Lions take that unbeaten streak to Chicago to face the Fire, another team on a similar three-game unbeaten streak. The Fire are one position above us in the standings and two positions below in this week's MLSsoccer.com Power Rankings. Everything points to this being a good competitive match-up for Orlando. While most games in MLS aren't easy wins, Orlando certainly goes into Chicago with every chance of bringing back something positive.
For a club searching for cohesion and identity in its first year of MLS, a four-game unbeaten run would do wonders for a team that seems to be bringing things together. Veteran teams understand these are the kinds of games you have to bring home points from to be competitive and to earn a playoff spot come October. Saturday, we get another look at a club on the build. Will it be another chance to build cohesion and confidence, or another hard-learned lesson for a work in progress?
Either way, the past three games have shown us Orlando City is quietly finding its form.