Recently, Orlando City has run into some bad form due to a number of factors. Whenever something like this happens, fans take to the internet and start panicking, usually blaming all the team's problems on one guy or thing. This case is no different.
There seems to be a consensus on the internet that the defense needs changes as the team has leaked eight goals in the past three games. While the team doesn't need any drastic maneuvering, I believe that there are some changes that need to be made in order for City to stop this run of poor results.
Even though Orlando has hit a recent bump, it would be pretty reasonable to say that most Lions fans are happy with the team’s current place in the standings. Earlier in the season, Orlando City was flying and, not too long ago, the Lions were atop the MLS table. Now, after eight points lost in three games, the Lions are in third place in the Eastern Conference with a couple games in hand on the teams above.
Of course, points aren't the only thing to look at when judging a good team. You also have to look at how well a team is performing, and while OCSC hasn't actually been playing that much worse, it is important for all of us to recognize that there has been a drop off.
As mentioned before, Orlando City has conceded eight goals in the last three games, which is a far cry away from the five goals conceded in its first seven games. It is very comforting to think that the club played well against Toronto FC, the Houston game was just because of the lack of rest, and that Sporting Kansas City is a very good team. These things are all true, but they shouldn't blind us from looking deeper at why Orlando City leaked so many goals in such a short period of time. A quick examination and one very clear trend I see is that Donny Toia and Scott Sutter are struggling more and more as the team advances deeper into the season.
Orlando City's defense has been a topic tossed around by pretty much all MLS analysts. Its new look defense is of course led by the veteran Jonathan Spector, and augmented by fellow new acquisitions Sutter and Toia. The whole unit has generally been solid for the majority of the season, but in the recent games the fullbacks — particularly Toia — are getting exposed. Two possible reasons have been the lack of rest and also the diamond formation. A seemingly simple solution to the latter problem would be to switch to a flat 4-4-2. The only problem with that is how much success the diamond formation has brought Orlando City.
A massive advantage to playing a narrow diamond formation is that there is often an outnumbering in the center of the park where the Lions have an extra center midfielder. This strategy has paid dividends for the team and could be seen in full effect last game with Will Johnson and Antonio Nocerino effectively canceling out the dangerous Benny Feilhaber. The players that did cause a lot of problems for the Lions was the pacey winger Gerso Fernandes, who terrorized Toia all night. Switching to a flat 4-4-2 would help Toia deal with a player like Fernandes, but it might also mean that the Feilhabers of this world will have more room to roam and tear apart our defense.
The moral of the story is that there is no simple solution to the team’s issues. If Kreis switches to a flat 4-4-2, I believe it would just be a knee-jerk reaction. This is why coaches get paid the big bucks. Kreis must have to be able to analyze things and know when a trend like a rising amount of goals conceded becomes a major issue. I know a formation switch looks like it would solve some problems, but the grass is always greener on the other side. For now, it's time to take a chill pill or two and see how things pan out in the coming games.