If you remember, way back on May 13 Orlando City lost 2-1 at home to Atlanta United. It was a game that got a handful of people stadium bans, but more importantly, it was the game that started the Lions’ current seven-game losing streak.
It was a simpler time, back when fans had no idea of the horrific run that would await the team in the coming weeks. It would be almost poetic if the Lions were to snap the team’s losing streak against the very same team that started it, but for that to happen they’ll need to correct some of the mistakes that plagued them the last time around.
If it’s been said once, it’s been said a thousand times. But Orlando has simply got to stop starting slow and conceding early goals. That’s exactly what happened in the first Orlando City vs. Atlanta match-up, as Cristian Higuita committed a foul in the box after only nine minutes and Josef Martinez converted the ensuing spot kick. This allowed Orlando’s northern neighbors to control the match and play exactly the kind of game they wanted to play. While the men in purple were able to claw their way back in the second half, and were the better team for large stretches, they had a bigger mountain to climb after some deficiencies in this list’s next area.
While United’s first goal was a combination of good play and overzealous defending, its second goal came courtesy of an Orlando giveaway at midfield. Atlanta was quick to take advantage, with Ezequiel Barco feeding Greg Garza down the left side of the defense, who then returned the favor with a ball to the top of the box for Barco to fire home. It wasn’t the only time in the first half that the Lions gave the ball away cheaply, an issue that continues to plague the team for much of the current losing streak. General sloppiness in midfield has been a problem, and while it wasn’t punished in games like the U.S. Open Cup match against D.C. United, better teams will make Orlando pay and Atlanta certainly fits that bill of a better team.
Not Playing Smartly and Not Being Composed
This ties in to both of the above points. Whether it was Higuita needlessly raising his hands while making the challenge that resulted in the Atlanta penalty, or cheaply giving the ball away in the midfield, much of what went wrong the first time around can be attributed to mental errors. Lack of focus led to the Lions digging themselves an early hole, but once the team settled in and mentally checked into the game, things started to flow better. Passes began to find their targets, the back line defended much better, and the team was eventually able to get a goal back and continue to press for an equalizer. This is a team that should have the talent to play with almost anyone in the league, but silly errors have given it a mountain to climb. In a game against top opposition, there’s no room for complacency.
My hope is that Orlando will get it together tomorrow and finally stop this abhorrent seven-game skid. Lord knows it’s been a demoralizing run, but if this season has shown me anything, it’s that one win can turn into a winning streak awfully quickly, so I suppose hope springs eternal. The task is certainly a tough one and everyone on the field will have to be at the absolute top of their game. Hopefully tomorrow isn’t a repeat of last time around. Vamos Orlando!