By now, we all know about Orlando City’s struggles during the summer months. The grass is green, the sky is blue, and the Lions have more trouble during June, July, and August than an octopus on roller skates. However, this summer’s fall from grace has been particularly hard to swallow. This is due to the fluctuation in form over the course of the summer.
The beginning of June saw the men in purple play out a tepid 0-0 draw at home against the Chicago Fire; a game in which the Lions were shown two red cards, had 34% of the total possession, and managed only five shots. This was followed by more encouraging performances against Montreal and Seattle. Even though both games ended in draws, the team played well both times and a draws were appropriate results.
Unfortunately, this was followed by four straight losses. I won’t bore you with the statistics, but the team did not perform well and looked sluggish and uninspired. This isn’t necessarily new for Lions fans, as the last two years have seen a similar drop off in form when summer rolls around. The last five games however, have been a different kind of frustrating altogether.
The Lions’ last five results read as follows: 1-1 draw away to Atlanta, 2-1 loss away to Montreal, 3-1 loss away to NYRB, 1-1 draw at home to Columbus, and a 2-1 loss at home to Vancouver. On the face of it, those results don’t exactly broker widespread optimism. And yet, aside from the 1-1 draw against Atlanta, these were games in which the team played pretty well; certainly better than it had during the last couple of months.
The Vancouver and Columbus games in particular saw the Lions both vastly out-possess and out-shoot their opponents. But the Columbus game also saw the team unable to go forward and find a winning goal playing against 10 men for 15 minutes, while the Vancouver game saw 72% possession and 25 shots only amount to one goal. Which leads into the overall point I’m trying to make.
Early in the summer, the team looked dead on its feet and completely different from the one that started the season with a 7-1 MLS record. And while form took a sharp dip in the summer months, the club executives acknowledged something had to be done, and went out and strengthened the squad by signing Dom Dwyer, Yoshimar Yotun, and Dillon Powers. While Dwyer hasn’t yet opened his account, and Powers only made his debut last week, Yotun made his debut in the match against New York, played well, and has continued to do so in the team’s last two fixtures. And as stated above the team played very well in those two fixtures as well, but was unable to come away with three points.
To put it simply, even though there have been encouraging signs in recent weeks, the team remains a work in progress and the playoffs are still slipping away from the Lions. Positive play and improvements in some areas from game to game have only yielded draws and it’s getting to the point in the season where a team needs to start winning games to make a successful playoff push. In an article just after the 3-1 loss to the Red Bulls, I talked about how there were reasons to be optimistic in the midst of the poor run of form the team has experienced. And I stick by that; rather than the team rolling over and dying, it has shown fight and played better than it was at the beginning of the summer, and that’s half the battle. But the results have yet to follow the improvements made on the field and, as a fan, it’s a special kind of painful and frustrating to watch your team play well but only come away with either one point or none at all.