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Lions Learn Road Wins Don’t Come Easy

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Earning all three points on the road is hard to come by for any club in MLS as Orlando City found out this past week.

MLS: Orlando City SC at Houston Dynamo Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Two consecutive losses for Orlando City both came away from home this past week as the Lions fell to Toronto FC and the Houston Dynamo in the span of four nights. Thus far, the Lions have lost three of four on the road and have been outscored, 9-3. However, Major League Soccer is not a place where away points come easy.

In the past three seasons, only two clubs have won more games on the road than they have lost. Last season, no club was able to accomplish the feat, with New York City FC coming close with a record of 7-7-3.

It should be no surprise that road victories aren’t a key to success in MLS. For example, the New York Red Bulls and FC Dallas have been the past two winners of the Supporters Shield, but they both had losing records on the road.

Over the past three years, no team in MLS has won more than seven road games. The best road team in 2015 was the Vancouver Whitecaps with a 7-7-3 record, while in 2016, New York City FC had the best away record, also 7-7-3. With those records, both teams finished second in their respective conferences.

This is an interesting statistic, a league like the English Premier League typically sees its top clubs ending the season with decent away records. Currently, the top five EPL clubs have more wins than losses on the road, which is something not seen in the MLS.

In just a few short weeks this season, there is only one club that has yet to lose on the road, which is FC Dallas. Every other club has lost at least once. Toronto FC is the only team in the Eastern Conference currently with a winning road record, although that was helped by a soft penalty in Seattle this weekend.

Major League Soccer road teams are just 22-56-25 so far in 2017. Six teams — Chicago, New England, Philadelphia, Houston, Minnesota, and Colorado — still haven’t won a match away from home this year. The Rapids haven’t even earned a single point away from Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. The New York Red Bulls have already lost five games outside of Red Bull Arena in 2017. This past weekend, five teams — including Orlando City — failed to even manage a road goal.

So, what does this mean for the Lions? Essentially, road matches are not a key indicator of success in the MLS season. Every club struggles, however, points away from home are nonetheless important in the grand scheme of things as a playoff place can be won or lost based on too many poor results. Looking ahead, the club could very well finish with a poor away record but still manage to perform well in the playoffs.

The defending champion Seattle Sounders were 4-9-9 on the road during the regular season before going on to win the title in the MLS playoffs. The club with the best away record, NYCFC, bowed out in the second round to Toronto.

Orlando has shown promise on the road with a win against NYCFC last month, but the Lions are falling off the pace of bettering last season’s away record, where they only won three matches. There’s still a long way to go but this was an area of improvement the Lions needed to work on coming into 2017. With two more away fixtures this month, it will be interesting to see how the Lions perform, as they could slip further out of the top places in the Eastern Conference.