As many of us saw against the Columbus Crew this past Saturday, the slightest contact can elicit a foul or penalty and swing the tide of a match with the snap of a finger. The match was 2-1 with the Lions leading before the penalty and ended in a 3-2 loss with Columbus stealing three points at home. Head Coach James O’Connor had this to say about the situation.
In the beginning of his statement, he emphasizes that he won’t speak about the referee because everyone saw what happened and that sheds light on what Orlando City as an organization must understand.
Many players, as well as Alex Leitao, responded to the play, but honestly that is the wrong move for a club in flux still trying to find its identity with over half the season over. Orlando City needs to become mentally stronger if it wants to succeed.
The entire idea of becoming better mentally as a team starts with O’Connor. In two straight road matches, Orlando has seen a questionable call go against it, resulting in losses in both matches.
Both of those plays could have gone either way but both unfortunately went against the Lions. The problem here is that Orlando has to let things like this go and move on. Yes, these kind of calls are borderline insane and stupid, but they don’t just happen to Orlando. Video review has been questionable since its debut in MLS and that may not change soon. The Lions must learn that in these situations, they can not crumple like a piece of paper. They have to stay on level footing and allow themselves to gain points in whatever way possible, much like they could have to hold on for a draw with Columbus this past Saturday.
The matches between LAFC and the Crew were both winnable or at least able to be drawn. But because the Lions cracked under the pressure of terrible officiating, they lost out on two to possibly six road points which would have them in a much better situation in the standings than now. With two games against two solid sides in New York City FC and the LA Galaxy coming up, the Lions must let bygones be bygones.
Becoming better mentally will also result in better play for O’Connor’s squad, which will hopefully start resulting in points. Much of the season is still available to Orlando City and the club must realize that the playoffs are still in reach. Seven of the team’s final 15 matches are at Orlando City Stadium, so taking points at home will be crucial along with picking up road points, despite being on a seven-game losing streak away from home. The Lions have the talent to get to the postseason, they just have to get out of their own heads and forget about things they cannot control.