Through three games to start the season, two of which were at home, Orlando City has one point. That one point came from Stéfano Pinho’s 90th-minute stoppage-time goal in the opener against D.C. United, so Orlando City was about two minutes from three straight losses to start the season.
So, with that said, who individually can step up for the Lions to get them going and in a groove so early in the season.
This may be kind of harsh, but goalkeeper Joe Bendik has not looked amazing in any of the first three games this season. His best moment came against D.C. United when he made a wonderful penalty kick save against Darren Mattocks, but even in that same game he got caught on his line, which led to a set piece goal from Yamil Asad.
Bendik has only made five saves all season on 11 shots on goal, and he has yet to post a clean sheet. He also made a horrible mistake against New York City FC after Yoshimar Yotún passed back to him — albeit a terrible pass with far too much heat on it — and Bendik basically gave Ismael Tajouri an easy goal. If Bendik can cut down on simple mistakes and get better defensive play (and fewer giveaways) in front of him, I believe he could be a spark that the Lions need.
As it stands, Mueller is in a position he shouldn’t be in. The youngster is currently the only healthy forward on the roster, even though Justin Meram has been playing striker as well. Mueller is only three games into his MLS career, but he has to step up his game already with Dom Dwyer and Stéfano Pinho out with injuries.
In Mueller’s three appearances, one which was coming off the bench, he has only taken four shots, all of which have been in the penalty area and two of which were on target, although he had a good chance blocked on Saturday. He has played a total of 210 minutes through three games, meaning he takes a shot about every 53 minutes. He has also had nine unsuccessful touches, which may have led to more shots and he only been dispossessed twice.
Mueller’s passing has been pretty good actually, as he has made 39 accurate short passes on 55 attempts and one successful long ball.
Asking Mueller to step up is a tall task due to his lack of experience, but if he can find a way to finally get one in the back of the net and gain some confidence with Meram to his left, Orlando may get its offense going even without Dwyer and Pinho.
Kljestan has only played in an Orlando City uniform once in the the first three games due to suspension, but it is clear as to why he has to step up and bring this team together. He has led MLS is assists the past two seasons. That alone shows why he will be such a vital piece to getting this team going. Against New York City FC, Kljestan posed an 85.7 pass success percentage on 62 touches. He also had a shot from the penalty area blocked in stoppage time. Other than that, Kljestan didn’t have his usual maestro magic, but it was his first game of the season, so it is hard to see if it will be a regular thing.
Kljestan will be very important in the coming games. As he gets into form, he will have to bring the squad with him and get some points to get the team going. He has a veteran presence and also has veterans such as Jonathan Spector and Will Johnson to help him lead the team. His passing will hopefully rub off on others, as Orlando has had a lasting problem of just giving the ball away through the first three games, posing a 78.1 pass success percentage, which ranks 13th in MLS. If Kljestan can establish himself to his usual form, Orlando will be in much better shape.
Colmán may be the most important player on this list. He made his debut for the Lions in the 76th minute against New York City FC, and he did not exactly “wow” anyone, but he definitely did not look bad. The Paraguayan made a few solid passes in the box as he tried to get the team going, and he also had a solid chance on goal in stoppage time that flew high to the right.
So why is Colmán so important to the Lions getting going? Well, Colmán is an attack-minded midfielder who can take the burden off of Mueller and help get some shots on goal for the Lions. The offensive attack, which still hasn’t fully developed due to the Dwyer injury, could use offensively inclined midfielder such as Colmán to feed balls towards the net and have the likes of Mueller, Meram, and others crash the net and make opposing goalkeepers uncomfortable.
If these players can provide the Lions with the spark they need, I believe they can turn around this early season slump. This off week will be vital for Jason Kreis to figure out what he wants to do as players are getting healthy. The Lions need something, and who or what will that “something” be?
If there is anyone on the squad that you feel was left out, comment below and explain how they could step up to help Orlando City. Otherwise, have an amazing day!