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Orlando City Continues to Experience Highs and Lows of Expansion Season

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In an expansion season that has provided a series of peaks and valleys, Saturday's loss to FC Dallas was more of the latter for a team trying to secure a spot in the playoffs. The Lions will have to regroup over the next several games or risk falling behind in the race.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

When watching Orlando City this year, supporters have seen a team that has the ability to play dynamic and aggressive soccer, while also showing the resiliency to battle back from adversity and gut out victories and draws.

Those same supporters have also seen a team that has shown lapses in play and inconsistency among a constantly changing lineup of players.

For the fans who cheer their purple-clad players, 2015 has gone as one might imagine an expansion squad’s inaugural campaign to go. One game, the Lions will exceed expectations and provide insight into what the future can be when the squad is firing on all cylinders; the next they look less than stellar. Even after a disappointing performance in a 2-0 loss to FC Dallas Saturday night, Orlando City was in third place in the Eastern Conference with 24 points at the end of the night.

However, in a season that has been full of peaks and valleys for OCSC, the Lions may be experiencing another one coming soon. This lull also may affect their standing in the playoff hunt.

After wins over Chicago and D.C. United, the Lions experienced a similar disappointing defeat to the the one against Dallas. Orlando City lost to Montreal 2-0 June 20, looking flat throughout the game. The team needed to bounce back from the defeat and responded in a strong fashion over the next two games, defeating Colorado and Columbus 2-0 in back-to-back games. In the following match-up against Real Salt Lake, Orlando City drew 1-1 after you-know-what happened.

A depleted roster played a big part in Orlando City’s loss this weekend. The Lions were playing without key players Kaká (red card), Cyle Larin (Gold Cup), Darwin Ceren (Gold Cup), and Brek Shea (groin). While Kaká will be back for Saturday’s game against the New York Red Bulls, it’s still uncertain if the other three will be back. Orlando City will also be without Luke Boden, who is suspended one game after getting a red card in extra time against FC Dallas.

The upcoming schedule will once again test the team’s resiliency and could provide some of the lows the squad has gone through for periods throughout the year. Saturday, the Lions take on the New York Red Bulls, who are second place in the East. The Red Bulls won three of the last five games, including a 4-1 victory over New England on Saturday. On July 26, Orlando heads to Yankee Stadium to face an improved New York City FC.

Our fellow expansion side figures to be much better with the additions of Frank Lampard, Andrea Pirlo, Andoni Iraola and Angelino. The Lions then face Columbus Crew SC and Toronto FC, teams that have given OCSC trouble this season.

Over 19 games, Orlando City has put together a product on the field that is worthy of playoff contention. However, over the course of this season, the Lions also have gone through valleys to go alone with the peaks. Over the next few game, Orlando City has tough challenges ahead that will either show more of the team’s ability to respond to adversity or the valleys that come with a squad in its first year of MLS play.

In an expansion season that has provided a series of highs and lows, Saturday's loss to FC Dallas was more of the latter. While the Lions are in the driver's seat for the playoffs at the moment, the next four games will be vital to the team's playoff chances.