Fandom is a strange bedfellow. Just when you think you know who is to blame for the ails of the week, something new arises and leaves you feeling in even more doubt as to what is wrong, how to fix it, who should fix it, and the reasonable timetable to do so. I am at this point with Orlando City now, where I am truly trying to figure out where the problem is.
Are the players not good enough collectively? Is there a coaching issue? Is there a front office/management issue? Does the entire roster need to be burned to the ground, and then, like a phoenix, be reborn anew with an entirely different squad?
Honeslty, I think the pieces are there for the most part, although they may not be in the correct places. Dom Dwyer is a fantastic striker. but as has been noted numerous times lately, he needs someone to help alleviate the pressure up top. When the wing play is working, it stretches the center backs wide enough to give Dom room to work his magic. When the wing play is not going to plan, it gives the central defense time to collapse and not give Dom space. The midfield is an area of random concern. Random concern, what does that even mean? I will get to that in a second.
The defense is, well, the major area that the Lions need to improve. When the club is clicking, the team certainly does not seem to have an issue with scoring goals. The problem is most definitely that, even when clicking, the team gives up too many goals. Is this the fault of one particular player? I dare say no. Players have had matches of brilliance, and then matches where every choice and every decision seemed to be wrong. This I blame on the forced lack of a consistent back four. If there’s anywhere on the pitch you want a player to be consistent, so consistent that there appears to be some weird telepathy going on, it would most certainly be on the back line. Orlando City has not had the luxury of anything close to consistent players on the back line this season, and it has shown.
We are a little over a month into James O’Connor’s tenure as head coach for City, and he is left to make some very tough choices. The front office has said that it believes the pieces are here to get the club into the playoffs for the first time in its MLS history. Pundits and fans may not agree. We certainly have a group of players that, at least on paper, should make the playoffs, but why aren’t they? Is this club in need of its third major overhaul since joining MLS? Theoretically, the club just made a drastic change in bringing on O’Connor. Is the club just trying too hard, and as a byproduct, playing players out of position so badly that it is having a negative effect in overall play? Was there something in the last regime’s training routine that damaged players? Is there an issue with culture at the club that is negatively affecting the product on the pitch? Do the changes in management need to rattle up the food chain all the way to the top?
Unfortunately, the list of questions and possible contributors is endless. After taking a hard look at the state of the things, over a High West Double Rye Old Fashioned, I firmly believe that a shuffle, not a rebuild, can bring about the most positive change for the club. Below is one example to discuss:
I propose a 3-5-2 formation. Mohamed El-Munir and Yoshimar Yotún work so well together on the left, and staggering like this will get Yoshi back into a position closer to that left back spot he is so fluid and comfortable with (re-watch the Peru World Cup matches if you don’t believe me). Also, I’m definitely assuming that Jonathon Spector is fit for the three-man back line. Cristian Higuita is a must have these days, just like Yoshi. I think pairing Scott Sutter on the right with Higuita makes the most sense. Yes, I put Josué Colmán as the attacking center midfielder. He needs time on the pitch in this role, and I think that time is now. To give Dom some assistance, I paired him with Chris Mueller, simply because he wears his passion on his sleeve, his work rate is second to none, and he is young and hungry.
At this point, I truly do not see any reason to burn the current roster to the ground and begin anew. There are some amazing pieces to use, it will just take the right leader to find not only where, but how. The tough choices will come when some big names are left out of the starting XI, not to simply give a player some minutes, but because that player deserves the spot. All of the pieces of the puzzle are here (with the exception of a strike partner for Dom and some help on defense maybe), but with a 100% healthy roster, any coach should have a difficult time picking 18 to dress.
We are entering another rocky period, but I do not think it will be nearly as bumpy as the last time. With the structure of MLS right now, rebuilding could mean a quick return, but not a lasting roster. Orlando City needs to find a way to start a dynasty. Making the playoffs is not just a goal now, it should be forever a failure if they are not made. The players are here to get to the chosen land, it is now time to simply find out what tactics, combination, and management of the players will help them set the stage for years of results to come.