After two of the most lackluster performances that fans have ever seen from Orlando City, questions are starting to be raised: are we good enough, are we deep enough, do we need more help? These questions are not the type that any fan wants to repeat or even think about while you are still hoping that your club is fighting for the playoffs. Today we will take a look at these questions and hopefully quell some fears or maybe light a fire.
Is Orlando City Good Enough?
We most definitely are good enough, as a team. Head Coach Adrian Heath has done a great job of putting together a team that has an idea of want they want to do. Orlando goes into every game with the plan of controlling possession, with dictating the flow of the match through short concise passing that will break down a defense and allow for good chances. This can easily be seen by the total possession and pass success stats. Orlando sits first in the entirety of MLS in pass success at 82.4%. They also are fifth in the possession battle at 52.3%.
Those two metrics should lead to a lot of chances for Orlando, but that is where the problem lies, Orlando does not take that many shots per game. They average 11.9 shots per game, which is below the league average, and against Philadelphia last weekend they managed a measly one shot on target. Pathetic. The question then becomes, how can we possess so much of the ball, control the flow of the game with excellent passing and manage so few chances?
We can argue all day that a multitude of shots does not lead to goals, but the pressure can lead to mistakes and better chances. As a fan, I really like how Orlando tries to build momentum, but the team must get over the jitters in the final third and start putting more shots on goal. If you are leading the league in pass success and in the top five in possession, you should be up there in shots per game as well. This needs to be fixed very quickly if the Lions hope to move up the Easter Conference table.
Is the Team Deep Enough and Does it Need Help?
Everyone would probably answer this question with a very quick "yes," but stop and think for a moment. Who are we missing, what would our lineup look like if we could fill our full first team? Early on in the season, Kevin Molino went down -- a player who even though he was transitioning to MLS had been getting rave reviews from both the staff and Kaká. Molino would have been the starting RM that we have been sorely missing since his injury and another offensive spark in the final third.
Also, let us not forget about Brek Shea, who, even though was initially signed as a LB, was moved up later in the season to play the LM spot. We are talking about an attacking third in a 4-2-3-1 with Cyle Larin, Brek Shea, Kaká, and Kevin Molino. That would/could be a devastatingly fast and formidable attack.
How about the depth in the final third? Well, with the addition of Adrian Winter we now have a player who can fill the role that Tony Cascio was supposed to after the expansion. We have Carlos Rivas on the left with his speed to burn, and Pedro Ribeiro, who, for all his faults, does hold the ball up very well.
We still have holes in the attacking midfield roles, and could possibly upgrade at the forward position over Ribeiro, but Orlando's depth after the transfer window looks much better once we get our players healthy.
The defensive midfield positions this year have consistently been the team's strongest contributors, between Cristian Higuita and my vote for Orlando's player of the year, Darwin Ceren. Orlando has found its two starters in the heart of this midfield for years to come.
This could be seen as a surprise, as at the beginning of the year Amobi Okugo was supposed to have his name firmly planted in every starting lineup, although Ceren and Higuita must not have thought that.
Our back line has definitely had its bad days but with Luke Boden showing he can play at the MLS level, the addition of Corey Ashe, Aurelien Collin, the newly signed David Mateos and the dangerous Rafael Ramos at right back, the defense looks to be headed in the right direction with some veteran and youthful depth (here is hoping that Conor Donovan comes back strong).
After that Philly game, do we even need to talk about how good Tally Hall is? Nope.
All in all, Orlando's roster looks to be very strong from top to bottom when healthy, it just so happened that the inaugural season in MLS came with many injury struggles and, even though we didn't make a huge splash in the transfer window, Orlando did make some good signings that should provide immediate and long-term impact.
Our club has made a name for themselves, showing that we can compete at the highest level. We draw fantastic crowds, play great attacking possession-style soccer and are on the right track to become a regular Supporters Shield and MLS playoff contender.