At the end of the season, when all is said and done, the difference between a playoff spot and a one-way ticket straight into the off-season could be a couple of goals.
Orlando City has had one of the lowest-scoring offenses in the league this season, and the team’s trouble finding the back of the net has come up close to every other night, from the first whistle of the year to this very moment. The Lions’ 22 goals this season is the third lowest total in Major League Soccer, coming off of a season in which they were one of the league’s highest-scoring teams.
Friday night’s 1-0 loss to Atlanta United illustrated the problem yet again, as the Lions failed to convert any of their 14 shots on the night. Orlando has just four goals in its last five games, and hasn’t scored more than one goal in a match since its 3-3 draw with Montreal on June 17. In all, the Lions have been shut out seven times this season.
Credit should go to Brad Guzan for his performance on Friday night. His five saves, including a trio of impressive stops, ultimately turned out to be the biggest road block to Orlando City grabbing one, or even all three, points out of the match.
And as Orlando continues to slip down the Eastern Conference standings with goals failing to come, Jason Kreis is trying to keep those frustrations from mounting.
“It’s extremely frustrating,” Kreis said after the match. “I think me as a coach, our coaching staff, all of our players, we’re attacking-minded people. We want to score goals. We don’t want to be a team that draws 0-0 or looks for 1-0 wins all the time. We want to be aggressive and we want to end up with lots of goals. It is frustrating not to get those but I can tell you from personal experience that’s the worst thing you can do, is to become frustrated because mentally that puts you in a bad spot. You gotta continue to believe and continue to get yourself in the right spots.”
Kreis pushed the blame away from the lack of scoring options on the team, and noted that while the Lions are doing enough of a good job at getting the ball in and around the opponent’s penalty area, they’re just not getting enough options into the box to actually finish off attacks.
“We’re going to need more options in there in order to score goals. It’s been a focus of ours,” Kreis said.” It’s something we talked about at the beginning of the two-week break and I thought tonight there was still too many plays where we’ve just got guys that are a little bit hesitant to get themselves all the way into the box and mix some things up a little bit more.”
Kaká said after the match that while he just couldn’t pinpoint one specific reason as to why Orlando City isn’t scoring more, sometimes it’s just one of those things that happen in soccer — you can get the opportunities, but the ball just won’t go into the net.
As I mentioned, this hasn’t been a two- or three-game problem, or even one that’s lasted for a month or two. It’s been dragging Orlando City down all season, and the only thing that combated it early on was the team’s stellar defensive play.
Kaká only has three goals this season and hasn’t scored since May 13. Cyle Larin has only scored two goals since April 23. Giles Barnes only has one goal this season. And Carlos Rivas, for all of the talent in the world that he has, only has four goals. The main problem with the team is that Orlando City’s primary scoring options are not scoring, and that’s holding the team back big-time right now. And those are the guys that you need to be able to count on to provide offense, especially in the postseason, which Orlando is not going to make if this run of dry offense continues.
Of course, this isn’t just on those players, as the struggles of getting the ball into the box show, but Orlando needs help; it needs more firepower. The transfer window is still open, meaning there is still time to find those reinforcements, but whether or not it happens remains to be seen.
On the bright side, the Lions will have another shot at Atlanta next weekend, and another opportunity to break through against Guzan.