In the midst of a potentially record-breaking losing streak, Orlando City takes on Toronto FC tonight at Orlando City Stadium. The game comes at a time when the Lions are chasing some of the Reds’ — and the league’s — most infamous records.
Orlando City’s 4-1 loss to Los Angeles FC last weekend was the team’s ninth consecutive league loss, tying the Lions for third on MLS’ all-time list of longest losing streaks. Three teams have lost nine straight games prior to the Lions: the 1997 New England Revolution, the 1998 New England Revolution, and 2012 Toronto FC. Only the 2010 Real Salt Lake team and the 1999 New York Red Bulls have had longer losing streaks.
Toronto FC’s recent success allows people to forget about the club’s troubled history. In 2012, the club’s sixth season in existence, the Reds began with a nine-game losing streak. In addition to being tied for the third-longest losing streak in MLS history, it’s the longest losing streak to start a season by any team. The Reds’ best-known streak of futility is eight straight years before making the postseason, still the longest in league history.
The first four seasons in MLS have been difficult for Orlando City. After a late winning streak saw the team narrowly miss out on the 2015 MLS Cup playoffs, the Lions have slipped lower and lower down the table each season, compiling fewer points than the previous season. Those struggles have continued in 2018 with the team in a free fall down the Eastern Conference standings and facing one of the longest losing streaks in league history. In fact, a loss against Toronto FC would bring the Lions to within two games of tying the league’s all-time record.
In addition to passing Toronto’s nine-game losing streak from 2012 and potentially pulling within two of the league record, the Lions are also climbing the ladder of MLS playoff droughts. Assuming they fail to qualify for the postseason this year, it will be the fourth straight year they’ve failed to reach the postseason, tying D.C. United, San Jose Earthquakes, Chicago Fire, and Philadelphia Union, all of which have had similar playoff droughts. Only two teams have had playoff droughts that extended longer than four years — Chivas USA went five years and Toronto FC went eight years without reaching the postseason.
After failing to reach the postseason in 2017, Orlando City became the second team in league history to play their first three years in the league without making a playoff appearance after Toronto FC. The Portland Timbers have been the only other team to fail to reach the postseason within their first two years of joining the league. Minnesota United could join that group as the fourth team to fail to qualify in their first two years, while LAFC could become the 13th team in league history to make the postseason in its first season in MLS.
The struggles through the team’s first four seasons in MLS have created a negative feeling among fans, but the opponent tonight can provide a glimmer of hope. The first eight years were very difficult for Toronto FC, but the club has managed to turn around and become a dominant force in the league — this year (so far) notwithstanding. The rise culminated in a historic 2017 season that saw the Reds take home the MLS Cup, MLS Supporters’ Shield, and the Canadian Championship — Canada’s version of the U.S. Open Cup. While the team has struggled so far this season, they reached the Concacaf Champions League final, narrowly losing to Mexican giants Club Deportivo Guadalajara.
This season has been full of club record setting for Orlando City, both positively and negatively. As the Lions’ current losing streak continues to stretch and they look set to miss the postseason once again, they inch closer to setting league records for futility. One of the teams they are “chasing” in these streaks will take the field with them tonight as the Lions face Toronto FC.