Well the fat lady eventually decided to start singing yesterday on Orlando City's playoff chances with the final curtain having been coming for weeks. But it was finally decided by a 1-0 loss to the Montreal Impact. The team still has two games left in the season, but here are my five takeaways from what I consider to be the season-ending game for our beloved team.
Molino Goes Missing
In a must-win situation for Orlando City on Sunday, after victories by both the New England Revolution and D.C. United on Saturday increased their gaps over the Lions, Trinidad and Tobago international Kevin Molino was nowhere to be found in this contest. The 10-goal, seven-assist playmaker had zero shots, zero key passes, zero dribbles and accounted for one of Orlando's City offside calls (we only had two) and provided no aggression for the team that needed a W. Molino was rightfully withdrawn at halftime to make way for Julio Baptista, who did provide more of an offensive spark for the Lions in the second half.
Good Stats Don't Always Bring Good Results
On paper, Orlando City had a terrific game on Sunday. With 66.8% possession and 74.2% in the second half, out-shooting the Impact, 22-4, dominating 12-1 on corners, with more accurate passing and more victories on duels. Analysts years from now could look at those figures and expect a very different score line. But anyone who sat on the edge of their seats on Sunday, urging the Lions on, will know that what sounded like a one-sided battle, was indeed, just not for the team Orlando City fans were hoping for. Montreal made the most of their limited touches and passing, clearly benefiting from a goalkeeper who ate his Wheaties (and then some) and remembered the adage that goals win games. They had one shot on goal, which they converted -- nothing else. It was enough.
Home Field Advantage Doesn't Hold Under Kreis
Not too many months ago, pundits and opponents would talk about the Orlando City home field advantage as the 12th man to be feared. Adrian Heath's unbeaten-at-home record and huge attendance numbers made for an intimidating opponent. However, Sunday's 12th man was a tiny kitten purring instead of a lion roaring. Just over 26,000 (season average has been 31,762) people showed up for a sweltering 1 p.m. game, for a team whose new coach has now lost four out of the last five home appearances.
The scorching heat, which required mandatory water breaks (in October), clearly diminished both sides, but Montreal -- which plays in much cooler climes than Orlando, who practices in this heat year-round -- nullified that particular advantage that the Lions usually capitalize on. To know that fans were preparing for the worst -- yet still optimistic -- going into today's performance should have rallied the boys to put out the performance of their lives, but instead the fans were sent home with sunburns and frustration for the wasted chances, lack of final product, and missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season. Kreis talked after the game about how disappointed he was in the home record this year, so expect that to be a point of emphasis going into his first full season as head coach.
Before last week's game against Toronto, FS1 reporter Julie Stewart-Binks asked Kaká, "After allowing 12 goals in the last three games, Jason Kreis said, ‘There's a leadership problem.' What did he mean and how do you fix it?" Kaká responded that he didn't see a leadership problem on this team. However, I beg to differ with the former world player of the year and firmly reside in the Kreis camp. Yesterday's game needed a leader to step up, control the game and lead the Lions to victory. It required a wartime consigliere who would make the tough plays and help the team run roughshod over the opponents. Yet instead, our best player was Antonio Nocerino, our defensive midfielder -- a position where games are rarely won, but more often lost. This game highlighted our lack of leadership that is clearly evident regardless of what Kaká thinks.
Lions Victims of Their Own Making
In the end, the Lions' defeat at home and inability to make the playoffs came down to being the victims of their own circumstances. Like last season, the final playoff spot will prove to have been just out of reach for the purple-clad lads, but the one glaring difference is there is no one to blame but themselves. Last season's losses were chalked up to first-season jitters, bad refereeing, and the extensive travel and international and friendly injury losses to the roster. This season, the blame sits on a consistent lack of point scoring in games at home and within the conference, bad attitudes, and stupid mistakes, leading to missed game eligibility, and a palatable lack of passion and, at times, perceived indifference.
Instead of supporters getting a team that went out and gave it their all to prove they could roar back in their second season, we got a team who the new coach deemed was physically unfit to perform to his standards and players whose bad attitudes alienated fans and resulted in numerous red card suspensions and yellow card accumulations. All in all, this off-season is going to need to be an evaluation of not just the ability of talent to perform technically but also to keep their heads in the game for the long haul.
That was how I saw the game and my five takeaways from yesterday's match. Let us know your takeaways in the comments section below.