A month and a half ago, Orlando City was clicking on all cylinders.
Now? Not so much.
A month and a half ago, Orlando City's defensive midfield was one of the strongest parts of the squad.
Now? Not so much.
As Orlando has plummeted down the standings since the start of July, one of the most noticeable differences in the team's play has been that of the defensive midfielders, Darwin Cerén, Cristian Higuita and the semi-newly-acquired Servando Carrasco.
The trio hit rock bottom against Seattle last week, as all three struggled mightily at stopping the Sounders' midfielders from pushing the attack forward and also failed to get generate any attack. They consistently pinged passes to the opposition and failed to take space on the off chance the Sounders defense gave them any to work with.
Cerén and Higuita had been standouts for much of the season, drawing recognition on the national stage for their abilities. Earlier this month, Adrian Heath made note of just how well the two had played.
"I don't want to keep talking them up too much because somebody will come try to buy the pair of them I think, the way they're (playing) at the minute," Head Coach Adrian Heath quipped in Saturday night's postgame press conference. "They're both outstanding players. I think that we have two of the better midfield players in the league."
And since coming to Orlando, Carrasco had stepped right in and performed well, too.
But that wasn't the case last week, and if Orlando City wants to have any chance against Sebastian Giovinco and Toronto FC, the Lions' defensive midfield will certainly be the key.
During this slump, much of the criticism has fallen on Kaká and his lack of goal scoring, but few have taken note of the inability of Orlando's back line and defensive midfield to get anything going forward, or to stop an offense from pushing toward goal against them.
If Orlando City is to have a chance against Giovinco and Toronto on Saturday, Higuita and Carrasco will have to get on the same page and get back to the basics of keeping possession and being strong on the ball when the pressure comes. If Carrasco and Higuita can do that, then we might be able to see what Kaká and Cyle Larin can do when they have possession on the ball with help coming behind them.
The change in formation from last week will get Orlando City back to the two defensive midfielder look we have become accustomed to seeing with Cerén out on a red card suspension. The three midfielders really seemed to struggle while all of them were working on the field at the same time, so if they can get back to the two-man defensive midfield and get into a good run of form, Orlando City might have a shot at slowing the potent Toronto FC attack.
If not? Well, it will likely be more of the same.