The 2016 campaign started out well for Orlando City, which claimed eight points from its first four matches despite a disappointing draw against Chicago in Week 2 while playing with a man advantage for much of the night. The Lions found themselves near the top of the Eastern Conference table and with a shutout win at New York City followed up by an emphatic beating of Portland, Orlando was apparently rounding into form.
The last six matches have seen that positive outlook crumble down, as the Lions haven't won since that early April evening against Portland and have managed just three points from those six games.
While City's scoring average has dropped over the six-match run, the most glaring difference has been on the defensive end of the pitch. Through four matches Orlando was averaging 1.0 goal per game allowed, but that number has doubled over the last month and a half to an even 2.0 conceded per match. Considering some of the heroic saves that goalkeeper Joe Bendik has been pulling off on a weekly basis, the Lions are fortunate that that figure hasn't ballooned more.
Because of their early season average, the Lions trail New York Red Bulls and New England in goals against, and are level with the likes of Montreal and NYCFC, who have also allowed opponents to find the net 16 times. Orlando has played at least one fewer game than all of those clubs, however, and trail all of them in the Eastern Conference table at present with the exception of Red Bulls, and even they have crept up to OCSC in the standings despite claiming just three points from their first seven games this season.
That Red Bulls side lit up Orlando City on April 24 for 26 shots, and if not for some of the aforementioned Bendik stops and some near misses, NYRB could have reasonably put five or six goals in the net instead of the three they managed. Likewise, Sporting Kansas City somehow only put two shots home last weekend despite launching 34 (!) on the afternoon, with Bendik once again making some big saves and helping to keep the score line from getting out of hand.
Considering that the goals against average could, and probably should be greater with this recent run of form, the loss of Darwin Cerén to an ankle injury becomes even more of a concern. Yesterday, our Logan F. Oliver touched on how teams have been exploiting the flanks as a way to circumvent City's two central midfielders in Cerén and Cristian Higuita, and it's fair to wonder if things will open up even more now without one of those two in front of the center backs.
Things won't get much easier with the East-leading Impact coming to town this weekend, but one bit of good fortune is that there won't be any Didier Drogba this weekend thanks to some combination of a hip injury and an aversion to artificial turf. But the leaky defense currently has Orlando City on pace to finish near the bottom of the league in goals allowed come season's end, which was certainly not where the Lions, or their fans, hoped to be at this point in Year 2 of MLS.