Now, before we begin, the absence of team captain and anchor of the the midfield Kaká is absolutely going to affect things. Orlando City's captain went down with a thigh injury hours before the squad's first match of the season and the Lions have been without their captain since.
Playing with a patchwork midfield comprised of Servando Carrasco, Darwin Cerén, Pedro Ribeiro, Cristian Higuita, Kevin Molino and Adrian Winter, along with newcomer Antonio Nocerino. The lack of consistency in the starting XI, coupled with the absence of Orlando City's captain are certainly some of the factors contributing to Orlando City's slow start to the 2016 season.
That having been said, let's look at how the midfield has performed thus far.
Orlando City 2- 2 Real Salt Lake
Possession: Orlando City - 52.7%, Real Salt Lake - 47.3%
Central Midfield Starters: Darwin Cerén, Servando Carrasco, Pedro Ribeiro
What's important to remember is that Orlando City played with a man advantage for over 25 minutes in the first half before Cerén was shown a straight red in stoppage time just before intermission.
Let's take a look at how how the ball was distributed:
Not bad, considering Orlando City had 373 total passes and an accuracy rate of 80%. The midfield pretty much bailed Orlando City out of this game with Carrasco's long ball up the field that found Larin and then Winter to score the second goal in stoppage time to bring City level and open the season with a draw.
Orlando City 1-1 Chicago Fire
Possession: Orlando City - 64.9%, Chicago Fire - 35.1%
Central Midfield Starters: Christian Higuita, Servando Carrasco, Antonio Nocerino
Another Match with the opponent seeing a red card fairly early into the match. Playing over an hour, including stoppage time, a man down is a long time, and not letting your opponent score a goal in that span is a feat to be marveled at. This match was also the debut for Nocerino and his turnover in the final third eventually led to Chicago's equalizer, so, not a stellar debut for the much-heralded acquisition from AC Milan.
So, again, Orlando City had a staggering 557 passes with an 87% accuracy rate. Coupled with being able to play for over two thirds of the game with a man advantage, possession should come pretty easily. On the same hand, finding the back of the net should come a bit easier, too. Especially on a team that the previous week had conceded four goals to the team Orlando City would be facing the next week.
New York City FC 0- 1 Orlando City
Possession: New York City FC: 66%, Orlando City: 34%
Midfield Starters: Antonio Nocerino, Kevin Molino, Adrian Winter, Christian Higuita, Darwin Cerén
Now, I'd say Winter absolutely earned his place in the starting XI given his play in the last two matches. He's one of my favorite players on the squad and can be an absolute game changer coming off the bench. In this match, the midfield was absolutely dominated and couldn't retain possession to save its life. One bright spot from this game (aside from the win) was the emergence of another young Orlando City player coming up huge against NYCFC in Tommy Redding. But, this being about the midfield, I'm going to just look at these charts and scowl.
That's uhh, that's a lot of red. Orlando City was held to 334 passes with a completion percentage of 71% and were it not for the ball hitting the post and some key opportunities missed by NYCFC, we would be looking at only having two points out of a possible nine to start the season. But, because this is MLS and nothing can make sense, Orlando managed to Snake Plissken its way out of New York and escape with three points, bringing the total to five on the season.
Looking ahead to the rest of the season, the midfield should find some consistency with Kaká's eventual return from injury and Nocerino completing his adjustment to MLS from Serie A. If the passing rate remains as high as it's been, the only thing that needs to follow is the ability to finish, which, if three goals in three games isn't a strong enough tell for the kind of season Cyle Larin is shaping up to have, I don't know what is.