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How Preseason Performance Affects the Regular Season for Orlando City

With the preseason half over, we look at how preseason results affect the regular season for Orlando City.

Orlando City SC

Orlando City is now halfway through the 2018 preseason schedule. While the results of preseason games are nearly meaningless, the Lions have performed admirably from a results perspective, “winning” all three “games” entering today and outscoring opponents, 11-3. How do these results translate to success in the regular season? Let’s look at Orlando City’s history in the preseason in an attempt to make that determination.

While Orlando City has been around since 2011, anything prior to the club’s entrance into MLS in 2015 is meaningless. During the USL years, the club outspent the opposition, building a superior team that resulted in five trophies in four years. Having joined MLS, they are now on a much more level ground, making it easier to compare to this season.

The Lions have played in three MLS preseasons to date and have only finished with a winning record in one of those years. After a 1-4-2 2015, the team went 3-1-1 in 2016 and 2-2-2 in 2017. The majority of these games were against fellow MLS teams, with three games (two in 2016 and one in 2017) coming against college teams. Orlando City went 2-0-1 against those college teams, beating Eastern Florida State College, 4-0, drawing the University of Central Florida, 1-1, and defeating Jacksonville University, 5-0.

It’s difficult to believe that preseason results can have an impact on an entire season, which lasts about eight months. However, it is believable that the cohesiveness and feeling of a successful preseason campaign can run into the first few games of the regular season — especially when the final preseason match is played a week before the regular season starts.

While Orlando City has steadily declined in point totals at the end of the past three seasons, they’ve actually gotten better during the first five games of the past three seasons. The 2015 Lions started the season with five points in five games before finishing in seventh with 44 points. In 2016, they started with eight points in five games before finished in eighth in the East with 41 points. Last year, the Lions got off to a roaring start by winning four of their first five and claiming 12 points before their collapse left them in 10th with 39 points.

The team’s preseason results don’t exactly correlate with the start of the regular season, but there are some similarities. The team’s worst preseason was in 2015, when Orlando went 1-4-2, and then only won one of its first five games. A year later, the Lions had their best preseason, with a 3-1-1 record, and started the season with eight points. Last year, the team’s final preseason record was 2-2-2 and the Lions got off to their best start with 12 points.

So the overall preseason record doesn’t seem to exactly match the start of the season, but the last game might. The final game of the 2015 preseason resulted in a 3-0 loss to the Houston Dynamo. The following season, the Lions drew their final preseason game, 1-1 against UCF. Last year, they won their final preseason game, 3-1 against Saint Louis FC.

Now, obviously those aren’t exactly the same level of opponents, but that doesn’t mean that the results are meaningless when it comes to the start of the regular season. The feeling of a win and a strong performance can have quite an impact on the confidence of a team. It’s commonly believed that major college football teams benefit by beating up smaller schools in their first game by providing playing time and confidence to their players.

The Lions have gotten off to a great start this preseason. After facing two MLS teams in Real Salt Lake and the Chicago Fire in the coming week, they’ll finish off with the reserves squaring off against Nashville SC at Orlando City Stadium. While seeming to be a meaningless friendly, these “games” may have more of an impact on the start of the season than you might think.