Orlando City ended its fifth season in MLS with a 5-2 loss to the Chicago Fire. A season that looked promising just a few weeks ago, ended the way most have, with the Lions finishing near the bottom of the standings. Now, the work begins as Luiz Muzzi gets his first full off-season in the Orlando City front office. Here’s what I took from the last game of the season.
James O’Connor Looking for Defensive Versatility
We already knew that James O’Connor values versatility in his defenders. Kamal Miller is a natural center back but has played left back on multiple occasions. Kyle Smith is a natural outside back but has spent more time at center back this season. When Sunday’s lineup came out, it had Miller at left back and Smith in the middle. It seemed like a mistake until the team took the field. With the team having already been eliminated from the playoffs, this appears to be O’Connor allowing these two players to spend a little more time in an unnatural position so that they can contribute better in the future. O’Connor said after the game that he liked the composure that Smith brought in the Portland match when he was called into action in that spot.
Benji Michel Needs to Work on His Touch
While this isn’t anything new, Benji Michel’s poor touch was on display again in this game. The Homegrown signing is playing his first professional season and is learning that it’s more difficult than college. With excellent speed, Michel can be a dangerous striker for the Lions. Unfortunately, too many times he’s let the ball get too far out ahead of him. In the fifth minute in this game, he should’ve opened the scoring. He had the goalkeeper beat but let the ball get too far out ahead of him and the chance was gone. If he can develop better touch in the future, he can be the striker Orlando City has been missing.
Old Habits Resurface
During the 2018 season, a serious problem for Orlando City was the snowball effect. Things would be going well until the opposition scored a goal. Two or three goals would quickly follow and the game would essentially be over. While the team has been able to avoid that old habit for much of this season, it resurfaced again in this game. In a 1-1 game, CJ Sapong gave the visitors the lead in the 61st minute. Goals by Aleksandar Katai and Przemyslaw Frankowski quickly followed in the 63rd and 67th minute. Down 2-1, the Lions could’ve come back, but a 4-2 deficit went the nail in the Lions’ coffin.
Brian Rowe Struggles
While you can’t blame goalkeeper Brian Rowe solely for the 5-2 loss, some of his struggles this season appeared again in this one. The most troubling issue he’s had this season is his indecision. As a goalkeeper, you have to make a quick decision about whether or not to come off your line and stick to it. Rowe has been indecisive multiple times this season, resulting in the goalkeeper getting caught in no-man’s land. While that wasn’t a deciding factor in this game, it did happen a couple times, displaying something he needs to work on if he wants to remain an MLS goalkeeper.
Ever since Cyle Larin left Orlando City, the team has been unable to replace him. Bringing in Dom Dwyer in 2017 appeared to be the answer, but he had a difficult 2019 season. While you typically want a striker that can provide 20 goals or close to that, Orlando City has mostly depended on Nani to provide the scoring. That’s a problem. There were a few times in this game where the team should’ve scored but either held onto the ball too long and didn’t get a shot off, passed when a shot was the smarter play, or shot it right at the goalkeeper. The two most glaring examples of this was when Tesho Akindele refused to shoot with his first touch and again in the 85th minute when Benji Michel had a wide open chance but sent it right to the goalkeeper. A primary goal this off-season will be finding a striker who will put those goals away.
What looked to be a strong playoff push turned out to be another disappointing season for Orlando City. Now we’ll look to the off-season to see what changes are made for the club’s tenth season in 2020. Anyway, this is what stood out to me in this game. Let us know what you saw in the comments below.