Looking to make some history today and post the club’s longest winning streak since joining MLS, Orlando City has turned a big corner this season. Starting out gaining just four points in the first four matches, the Lions have fought for 12 points in the next four matches, currently sitting third in the Eastern Conference, and fifth in the Supporter’s Shield standings — with games in hand against a few of those above them as of the time of this writing.
As of right now, everything is looking up, and the fans are ecstatic at the turnaround the boys have made, but at some point in the future, something we hope does not happen will happen — the club will experience a setback. The big question is: How will you react when the inevitable happens?
The parity of MLS, and the travel required to fulfill the scheduled matches against all of the other teams, makes this league one of the world’s toughest, especially for road wins. Every fan needs to be prepared to accept a loss every now and then — it is simply part of the game. So, to gain some perspective, let’s look back on the past few seasons.
Toronto FC had an unbelievable season last year, winning the Supporter’s Shield and the MLS Cup. The Reds even went so far as to make the finals of the Concacaf Champions League this year. But how did the top teams fare, overall, at the conclusion of the season?
Looking at the top 10 teams from last year, the average number of losses was about 10. The more important comparison is the number of wins versus draws. Now let’s look at how the playoff brackets went down.
Honestly, it is really hard to draw any conclusions from the 2017 brackets, except that Toronto FC was just simply on fire last season, and that there was a definite shift of power from the West to the East. Also, if you want to know how tight the rest of the field was, there were only seven points that separated second from 10th.
Here is a look at the top 10 from the 2016 season, a season that saw Seattle win the MLS Cup.
FC Dallas won the Supporter’s Shield, but I doubt many fans of MLS will remember that. There is a bit more of a spread in that season’s results as far as comparison of wins, losses, and draws. Although the average loss for the top 10 is again about 10, the top five show below average, while the back five show above average. How did the playoffs pan out then?
The first of two finals between Toronto FC and the Seattle Sounders was in 2016, except both teams had to start a round earlier in the playoffs to make the finals. Seattle eventually won on penalties, but what can we learn from any of this? The Sounders, who had to beat both the number one and number two teams in the West, had the highest number of losses of any team in the top 10, with 14; however, they only had six draws.
Starting to go way back, the first year Orlando City was in MLS — a year that saw the New York Red Bulls win the Shield — the MLS Cup was won by the Portland Timbers. So let’s look at the top 10 teams from 2015.
Average losses for the season were about 12, but notice just how low the draw numbers are. Also, what stands out are the overall points, with only nine points separating first from 10th, with first being decided by a tie-breaker as New York Red Bulls and FC Dallas ended the season tied. How did this look through the playoffs?
Portland had to play one extra game, plus defeat the Western Conference’s number one and two teams in the Vancouver Whitecaps FC and FC Dallas before reaching the finals to face the Columbus Crew. Both teams had identical records, including those 11 losses.
Ending the 2017 season, Toronto went 2-2-1, including losing two in a row. In 2016, both FC Dallas and Seattle both ended the season well, even though Seattle had one point in the first five matches, and had numerous stretches of multiple losses in a row. In 2015, both the New York Red Bulls and Portland Timbers finished strong, winning four out of five, but the Red Bulls lost four straight at one point, before waking up and taking points in bunches as well as Portland finding its stride.
Where am I going with all of this? Just a reminder that, especially with some of the road schedule ahead, there are going to be tough times ahead. As fans, we need to just sit back and relax a little as every team has its moments of poor form. A misstep here or there is in no way shape or form the end of the road for this team. A string of missteps is when we should be concerned, but one here and one there is to be expected.
There will be no need to panic or feel that the house is burning down around us. Points will be dropped, especially on the road, but don’t panic folks. You can start to panic when the loss column hits 11, with plenty of matches left to play, and the points per match number is below 1.5.