Here at The Mane Land we have written on the ups and downs of the 2015 season, focusing on specific players and have argued that expectations may have been a bit high in the first MLS season for our hometown Lions. So, how do we, as fans, stay positive and look forward to the next game while also looking forward to next season?
Some can argue that this season has been one of unlucky bounces and bad calls; we know that Orlando has dealt with its share of cards, international call-ups, and injuries. Some seem to argue that the Lions also dealt with being just plain unlucky. Without dwelling too long on the matter, there has been some interesting research done on that by our friends at American Soccer Analysis (ASA) to prove that Orlando has actually experienced a great deal of good luck.
To explain it simply, this season Orlando has actually played on average 0.1 points better than expected. This means that instead of the fantastic (kidding) 1.1 points per game the team has, Orlando should actually be sitting at just a paltry one point per game. That slight change would actually put the team three points off of the current pace. So, in a world void of luck, Orlando should be sitting on 29 points. If you want more information on luck's role this season, check it out here.
Looking at the positives, Orlando has some really good players and some of those are coming back, or will be ready for a full year next year. We have seen games this year where either Darwin Cerén, Kaká or Cristian Higuita have not been on the field and Orlando City struggled to get anything going. As much as the team has missed those three payers for a few games, the Lions have played essentially the entire season without Kevin Molino--the answer at the right midfield position.
What if Brek Shea makes runs down the left side of the field with an MLS ready and now transformed Carlos Rivas? What does the starting 11 look like then? Let's take a way-too-early-look at a possible 2016 lineup:
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No, this lineup is not vastly different from what fans were hoping to see at the beginning of 2015, but keep in mind a few points:
1. The depth will be much better next year than it was at any time this year. Players such as Adrian Winter, Bryan Rochez, Conor Donovan, Luke Boden, Tony Cascio and Pedro Ribeiro will be available on the bench for the club and most have found time to heal and have proven they can play in the MLS. Fans will also have any potential SuperDraft picks to look forward to, as well.
2. Adrian Heath and the front office can now fully understand how grueling MLS is, how a team should be built with depth in mind, and that MLS in 2015 is on an entirely different level than MLS 2014 or any year before that. Look at the names added just in 2015: David Accam, Jozy Altidore, Sebastian Giovinco, David Villa, Andrea Pirlo, Frank Lampard, Mix Diskerud, Steven Gerrard and our own Kaká. That is a list of some highly talented players and Orlando was not prepared to face that type of competition week in and week out, but they will be in the future.
3. A new stadium may open late in 2016 and it will be fantastic. If you have not seen the rendering for Orlando's new home, check them out here and look in awe. Perhaps in the 2016 playoffs you may find yourself sitting and watching your Lions run rampant on natural grass surrounded by a pristine work of art.
So, again let us not dwell on the past but look to the future; exciting things are happening. We have a talented young team that plays with attacking flair. If Orlando City can stay healthy, it might be looking down the 2016 Eastern Conference table, instead of up it. So here's to Orlando wining every game for the rest of 2015, having a great off-season, getting a great player in the MLS SuperDraft, landing a big-time player, and coming into 2016 with a chip on their shoulders and ready to roll.