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Why Can’t Orlando City Put a Full 90-Minute Performance Together?

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Saturday night was a tale of two halves, something that has become common for the Lions.

MLS: Orlando City SC at FC Dallas Andrew Dieb-USA TODAY Sports

Orlando City was shut out by FC Dallas 2-0 Saturday night in, for those who hadn’t watched the game, what appeared to be a dominating performance by the hosts. But at halftime, it was a close game and the Lions could argue they were unlucky not to head into the break with the lead. So the question remains, why can’t Orlando City put a full performance together?

Any hope of qualifying for the 2018 MLS Cup playoffs has been long lost for Orlando City after it has only gained six points in its last 21 games. Even with a nine-game losing streak earlier in the season, the lowest point came three weeks ago when the Lions lost 4-0 to the Chicago Fire. It wasn’t just the loss to the only team in the conference with as few points, but the lack of energy and determination displayed.

Head Coach James O’Connor spoke candidly following that game about the lack of effort, saying: “I think when you look at the energy levels there is a lack of energy, a lack of commitment.” He went on to promise fans that they would not see a performance like that again.

When the Lions returned to the field a week later against the Houston Dynamo at Orlando City Stadium, they looked much better. Despite a scoreless draw, the team showed much more energy and dedication in pulling a point.

The first 45 minutes Saturday night in Dallas was one of the better halves the team has played this season. The Lions held their own on the road against an FC Dallas team that currently sits on top of the Western Conference. While Dallas had some opportunities that were thwarted by Joe Bendik, the Lions could’ve scored themselves through opportunities by Mohamed El-Munir, Will Johnson, and an excellent free kick by Sacha Kljestan that forced a diving save from Jesse Gonzalez.

Heading into the break, it was conceivable that the Lions could claim their second win since May, but the second half was a different story. While possession was equal in the first half and the visitors threatened to score multiple times, the majority of the second half was spent on the Lions’ half of the field. The team played as if its goal was simply not to concede, a recipe for disaster.

Referee Nima Saghafi called the two teams off the field with 10 minutes left as lightning entered the area, a delay that would last a little over an hour. When the two teams arrived for the final 10 minutes, the Lions once again looked like the team from the first half. The introduction of Josué Colmán provided a spark as he quickly caused problems for the FC Dallas defense and won a corner. But the effort came too late as the Lions were already down 2-0 and only minutes remained.

O’Connor talked about the inconsistency of play following the game.

“The first half was the performance that we looked at and thought great, we’ve had some lovely passages of play, we’ve caused them problems, their keeper’s made some big saves, and we hit the woodwork. The expectation is to build off that and get it in the second half. That’s something that we haven’t really been able to do is to get a consistent performance for 90 minutes.”

This isn’t a new problem for Orlando City. There have been games like the one in Chicago where the team simply didn’t show up, but more often than not, the team played well in one half and struggled mightily in the other. Given O’Connor’s comments following the game, he obviously doesn’t know why this is happening but it’s a major reason why the team is in last place in the Eastern Conference and only has one win in 21 games.

A once-promising season has become the worst in club history with the team continuing its tailspin toward the end of the season. A major reason for that is the inability to put together a complete 90-minute performance. That should be the goal heading into the final four games of the season.