With a little less than half of Orlando City’s away games remaining, it is time to figure out a new plan of attack. In nine away games played thus far, the Lions have earned two wins, two draws, and five losses. This adds up to eight points gained over the course of nine games, and that is a statistic that you cannot be proud of.
Orlando City is a struggling road team which is something the entirety of MLS is familiar with. The only exception would be LA Galaxy, a team that struggles at home but wins games away — weird right?
While no team really matches what the Galaxy are doing on the road, it is also not entirely the goal to do so. The Galaxy have won five games on the road out of nine and, while that would be very impressive for the Lions, it is the type of high expectations most teams have for themselves.
When it comes to wins, the Lions are actually close to what they should be pushing to win on the road; they won two and they should have won at least three (City missed golden chances to win at Toronto on May 3 and gave up a late equalizer at San Jose on May 17), which would be a third of the matches. The next part of that comes in the form of ties. Orlando City should push to tie a third of the games as well, and the Lions were one tie away from doing that.
It may not seem like a lot, but overall it would give the Lions four extra points that would raise their road total to 12 points in nine games as opposed to the eight they currently have. They would also be tied for third instead of sitting alone at fourth in the Eastern table. When you look at your road schedule, the goal of the club should be to earn one to two points per match. Orlando City earned, on average, 0.88 points per game on the road for the first half of the season. It has to improve on that average moving forward.
Looking ahead, the Lions have eight road games remaining and even fewer home games (seven). Orlando City has clearly been one of the better teams in MLS at home, which further shows how crucial earning points on the road will be to finish out the season.
Two of the road games will take place against Atlanta, a team that is 5-2-0 at home. Getting a win in Atlanta is going to be tough as the expansion side has been one of the surprise teams of the year and looks to be playoff bound. To be honest, it does not really get too much easier for Orlando City. The Lions play at Portland, New York Red Bulls, and Montreal — all of these places are considered some of the toughest in the league.
This is why the strategy that Head Coach Jason Kreis implements has to be changed. The strategy has to be similar to the one we saw this past Friday in Salt Lake City. Orlando was fortunate to strike first and then play a defensive match that led it to victory. The team sat back and defended for long stretches during the game and basically held on until the end.
For starters, it is really difficult to rely on the fact that you may score first on the road, but that really is not the entire idea the Lions should implement. The strategy the Lions should go with is defensive. The team should look to play counter-attacking soccer and put eight or nine players in the box to defend. This strategy will be most important in all of the road games that were mentioned above.
This is not a bad strategy for Orlando to implement, specifically considering the Lions have at least two players who are at their absolute best when it comes to last-resort defending: Joe Bendik and Jonathan Spector. In all honesty, you could probably throw in Will Johnson as well. These guys play with a lot of heart and a lot of will. It is a strategy that plays into their hands.
Luckily it is not a strategy that has to be played in every road game. Besides the five away matches mentioned, the team still travels to New England, D.C., and Philadelphia. While no road game is easy, these are the cities that Orlando will be looking at to get the majority of its road points. New England and D.C. are the two teams sitting at the bottom of the East, while D.C. United owns the worst home record in the East. Points will be crucial against both of these teams because Orlando should beat them in most head-to-head match-ups. If the Lions can manage at least two wins against any of these three teams, that would be great.
Over the course of the eight away games the goal is to earn eight or more points. The team will want to try to win or draw as many games as possible. The reality is the team will want to find a way to win a total of three away games with what remains, and that would be considered a major success for the Lions.
Kreis obviously has his hands full as he has to balance formation changes, healthy legs, managing wins, and hopefully stretching the season into the playoffs. If he can find a way to right the wrongs on the road, his stress level will change in a major way. It can be done, but the strategy certainly will have to change.
Do you have any ideas on what Orlando City should change on the road? Let us know below.