The MLS season is still relatively young, but we're far enough along in the 2016 campaign that we can begin to ascertain how teams stack up across the two conferences and which clubs will most likely be in the playoff conversation several months down the line. Following last night's 2-2 draw to the Philadelphia Union at Camping World Stadium, Orlando City has now played over 40 percent of its home matches for the season and we have a decent sample size to compare to how the Lions fared at home last season in what was then the Citrus Bowl.
The good news is that City had lost three times at home by this point in the 2015 season, and are yet to see a loss in seven home matches this season. The bad news is that the draws continue to pile up, and precious points are being left on the field that could haunt the Lions down the road.
Through seven home games this year, Orlando City has taken 11 points from a possible 21, an average of 1.57 points per match. A season ago, on their way to a seventh-place finish in the Eastern Conference -- one spot out of the postseason and five points behind sixth-place Toronto -- they lost five times at home, and thrice in their first seven outings. We can see now that Orlando is slightly ahead of pace to match or exceed last season's 1.53-point per game output in front of the purple faithful.
Despite a seven-match unbeaten streak at home to start the season, which is part of a 13-game unbeaten home run dating back to July 18 of 2015, Orlando sits on 15 points total and in the sixth and final playoff spot in the East, although much time remains and the East is a cluster with first-place Philly only four points ahead.
City took only six points from its first seven home bouts of 2015, failing to register a victory until May 17 against the LA Galaxy. Otherwise, the Lions lost three of their first four home matches and registered three more draws around those losses and the lone victory. With that in mind, the start of the home schedule has certainly been an improvement.
Adrian Heath's club won two of its first six home games in '16 prior to last night's draw and scraped out draws in every other match, including that now-infamous day in March when the Lions scored twice in stoppage time to tie Real Salt Lake. Despite not winning a high percentage of their home ties, the Lions managed to take a point and those certainly add up over the course of a playoff push, just as those early-season losses did en route to narrowly missing the postseason last season, although we'd love to see more victories start to roll in at the venue formerly known as the Citrus Bowl to shore up this season's playoff hopes.
With only one win and three losses in four road matches so far this year, the Lions will need to leverage their considerable home-field advantage into points -- preferably wins -- consistently. Long travel for road matches, sometimes across time zones and different playing conditions, make road life in the MLS extremely difficult in addition to the advantage already gained via a home crowd, so picking up three points in road matches isn't something that will likely become a strength for Orlando. This makes City's home form all the more important as a franchise dreams of the playoffs in Year 2.
Draws are certainly better than losses, but those three-point outings vault a team up the table much faster than one-point stalemates.