From well before the season started, Orlando City's front office and coaching staff stated repeatedly that their goal for the team's inaugural MLS season was to make the playoffs. Despite the fact that the 1998 Chicago Fire and the 2009 Seattle Sounders are the only two expansion sides to qualify for the postseason, this seemed like a realistic goal considering that the league was adding two teams in each conference to the postseason.
Orlando City picked up points here and there early in the season as the club acclimated itself to MLS. The Lions managed to stay away from losing streaks, never losing more than two straight until late July, which kept them well within the playoff bound teams.
After earning just one point out of a possible 12 in early May, the Lions went on a tear winning three out of four MLS games in June. However, the team is now going through the biggest slide in club history having taken just four out a possible 18 points.
It's not as though Orlando City hasn't had chances to put themselves back into a playoff position. After dropping two consecutive league games to FC Dallas and the New York Red Bulls at home, the Lions traveled to New York to take on their fellow expansion side, New York City FC, who sit just behind them in the Eastern Conference. The high scoring affair ended in a 5-3 defeat, leaving at least one point on the table.
After a strong win against the Columbus Crew which saw the team play one of its best games of the season, they traveled to Toronto to take on a Toronto FC team that was missing two key players in Jozy Altidore and club captain Michael Bradley. Even though the Reds had their MVP candidate Sebastian Giovinco and the Lions were missing Kaká, the 4-1 defeat saw the Lions perform halfheartedly in a game where valuable points were left on the field.
A similar story unfolded Saturday night. Facing the last place Philadelphia Union who at this point in the season are probably more concerned with their US Open Cup semifinal than a league game, Orlando City played to a 0-0 draw. Many considered this a 'must win' game--a home game against a bottom table team. Its importance is highlighted by two tough upcoming road games at Seattle and Toronto. The Lions squandered a great opportunity to pick up three big points and place themselves back into the playoff race.
While the Lions still have the opportunity to qualify for the playoffs, they certainly haven't earned the honor. Teams that are worthy of making the postseason win games at home and defeat teams below them in the table. As with most American sports, a successful team wins the games they should and a few they shouldn't. However, Orlando City are dropping points against teams they should be beating and losing most games against tougher opponents.
With 10 games remaining in the season, the Lions are still in a position where they could still qualify for the postseason--if they can manage to go on a run. But judging by the way they've played down the stretch, they don't deserve to be a playoff team.