As soon as it may seem, the MLS season is into its second half. Orlando City SC only has 13 games left, and while that may seem like a lot, those games will be done and dusted before you know it. While the Lions only play three games during the month of August, it’s an important stretch of games and could prove to be a crucial month in determining the trajectory of Orlando’s season.
One of the biggest reasons for this is because of the opponents the Lions will face during the coming month and where they will face them. First up is a home game against the New England Revolution, currently in sixth place in the East and only a mere six points ahead of the Lions. Next is a road game against D.C. United, the second worst team in the league, and a fixture that Orlando really can’t afford not to take points from. Finally, it’ll be back at home against Atlanta United, a game which at first glance appears to be a no-brainer win for the team from Georgia. But don’t forget that the score was only 2-1 the last time the teams played in Orlando.
While the Atlanta game is certainly a daunting prospect, the matches against New England and D.C. certainly look to be winnable, especially given the encouraging promises under new head coach James O’Connor. This brings me to my next point.
Under any head coach, it’s important for players to buy into the boss’ philosophy. If they don’t, then performances can be disjointed and uninspired, points will be dropped, and the coach runs the risk of “losing the dressing room.” Under a new head coach though, especially one as young as O’Connor, it’s even more important for that buy-in to happen and be followed by results. So far, the buy-in from the players certainly seems to be there. Orlando finally got a win, even if it was against a struggling team, but also played well for large stretches against LAFC and certainly deserved at least a point if not more in the loss to Columbus. However, losing isn’t fun for anyone and there’s a chance that the belief and good performances will begin to falter if results don’t begin to go Orlando’s way. That makes August’s stretch of two winnable games and one manageable one quite important.
It’s also important for the obvious reason that the Lions still sit below the playoff line with the summer coming to an end. If this team does want to pull a hard 180 on the season and make the playoffs for the first time then time is very much running out. While a trio of losses wouldn’t necessarily doom Orlando to missing the playoffs, depending on how other results go, it would probably come very close to doing so. Truly, there’s less room for error with every passing game and if the Lions are going to put everything together then all those good performances need to start translating into points, and fast.
The optimist in me says that OCSC will take at least six, maybe even seven points out of August’s contests. But the realist says it’s more likely to be three at most, with the cruel loss at Columbus seeming to indicate to me that the Lions simply aren’t allowed to have nice things. I’d love to be wrong and for Orlando to make the playoffs for the first time ever. In order to do that though, the month of August must be nearly perfect. Vamos Orlando.