Well, what can you say? If you’re an Orlando City fan, there’s not much that can console you as you try and digest just what happened last night over your Sunday morning Wheaties and coffee. Here are five things we took away from last night’s 4-1 loss to D.C. United:
When Opportunity Knocks You’ve Gotta Answer
This game was as must-win as Orlando City has had in its short MLS history. The Lions and D.C. entered the game even on points with the exact same record, with the winner (at least temporarily) vaulting above the red line into the playoffs. You’d figure this one to have been winnable on paper, even though the score tells a different story. D.C. boasts one of the most mishmash rosters in MLS, consisting of other team’s thrown-away role players and prospects that didn’t pan out (case in point, Patrick Mullins), but somehow is playing well enough to contend for the playoffs (hint: it’s because too many teams make the playoffs). Give D.C. credit where Orlando fails; when the chips hit the table they were able to come up with three points.
Beginning and End of Halves
It’s a sports cliche, but the beginning and end of halves are critical points in a game in which the fate of the contest is often decided, and if you look at this one that cliche rings true. After going up in the first half, D.C. dropped two goals inside the first 10 minutes of the second, and any chance of a comeback to even earn a point on the road looked bleak, if not impossible. Four of the 12 goals in this three-game losing streak have come within 10 minutes of the half, and the psychological toll which that takes can be devastating in the landscape of the game.
When it Rains, it Pours
Just when you thought Orlando City under Jason Kreis had figured things out, this most recent three-game stretch happens. Two straight wins over NYCFC and Montreal had even pessimists smiling, but since then things have become downright dreary. Three straight losses in which the Lions have allowed four goals each and been outscored by eight, all while seeing other teams pass them in the race for the playoffs, have put the postseason seemingly out of reach.
Where’s the Leadership?
Jason Kreis had a similar sentiment in his post-game presser in a very throw-the-team-under-the-bus statement, but where’s the leadership on this team? When things go bad, you’d expect your team’s leaders to be able to bear down, bring the team together, and tighten things up — not continue to take punishment, especially in a game with this much at stake. Was the third goal a little fluky? Sure, but things happen, and you need to be able to find that fighting spirit as a team that no game is out of reach. Outside of a few moments after Baptista’s goal, that wasn’t there in the second half. Antonio Nocerino is someone you’d expect to be one of the leaders on this squad, and he was sent off with a red, while Kaká was subbed off with time to go. Who are the leaders on this team?
Given the magnitude of this loss, a playoff berth now looks something like a miracle for Jason Kreis and co. Orlando’s last four games are as follows: at Toronto, vs. Montreal, at Philadelphia and vs. D.C. While there are certainly some winnables in that stretch (Montreal at home, D.C. at home) there’s at least one nearly certain loss (at Toronto). New England plays tonight on FS1 against Columbus, so if that game goes according to form the Lions will have the nearly impossible task of making up five points on the eighth place team with D.C. in between. Is the season over? Crazier things have happened, but it’s not a bright window right now.
Those are our thoughts on the game, but what were yours? Is this season over? Leave us your comments below.