When the 2017 Major League Soccer season kicked off, last March, Orlando City SC seemed to have built a true fortress in the heart of the city. With five straight wins at the new downtown stadium, the Lions were quickly considered one of the toughest teams to play on the road in the league.
Fast forward three months and the club faces a totally different situation. Going through a five-match home drought (in all competitions), Orlando City is about to complete two months without a home win as the Lions last made their local fans happy on May 31, when they defeated D.C. United, 2-0.
So, what happened?
It’s important to notice, for starters, that the team played some good soccer over the last two months despite failing to achieve the results. Against Atlanta United Friday, the Lions dominated much of the match but were punished with a late goal that settled the 1-0 loss.
“I honestly think that we are performing well,” Head Coach Jason Kreis said after the Atlanta game. “I really do think that a lot of the play we have right now is good. Unfortunately this is a moment where you don’t have those wins to hang your hat on and to reward the players and to get collective buying through that. But I do think that this locker room still believes and is still together and I feel that if we perform the way we did tonight until the end of the season we’ll be just fine.”
Orlando City also showed great effort on June 4, when it held Chicago Fire to a scoreless draw after having two of its players sent off, one of them in the 25th minute. The 3-1 loss to Miami FC, which led to an early exit on the U.S. Open Cup, and 4-1 loss to Toronto FC, though, were definitely the lowest points of the period.
One of the clear reasons for Orlando’s home decline is the lack of balance between offense and defense. While the team scored only five goals in five matches (with three of them coming in the 3-3 draw with the Montreal Impact), it conceded 10 goals in the same time.
“This is something we’re conscious of, we need to score more goals,” midfielder Will Johnson acknowledged following the Atlanta match. “We need to give ourselves better opportunities to win games. When you have trouble scoring goals your margin to win games is very, very small. We’ve got to find a way to score more goals. It’s something we continue to work on.”
The lack of offensive production has a lot to do with Cyle Larin. The Canadian forward, who started the season on fire, was sidelined because of off-the-field issues and found the back of the net for the last time on May 31 — yes, not coincidentally the last time the team won at home.
With Larin back after playing for Canada in the Gold Cup, the Lions’ fans hope he can find the scoring touch he displayed in the beginning of the season. With that, and the support coming from the stands — one of the few things that remains unchanged since March — Orlando will hopefully become a tough home opponent again. The first opportunity will be on Aug. 19, against Columbus Crew SC.