A new season, and a new opportunity for my unbridled optimism to run rampant, forced me to see the world through purple tinted glasses, and make wild predictions that made no sense, even in Bizarro World. As I suggested in this season’s first monthly predictions, everything is so new that it might take a month or two for things to get clear when staring into the crystal ball, not only for Orlando City, but for MLS in general.
I mean, at the beginning of the season did you think that two of the best teams in MLS would be D.C. United and Los Angeles Football Club and that Atlanta United would be winless? (Editor’s note: yes on the first question, no on the second, bearded guy!)
Without further ado, lets dig right into the predictions and see just how close, or how far away, I was.
March 2 vs New York City FC
Prediction: 2-1 City.
Actual: 2-2 draw.
Well, the Lions are still undefeated in MLS opening day matches. In a bit of irony as well — our very familiar friend irony — the game ended on a somewhat controversial note. The Lions did not help themselves out in the first half, falling behind 2-0 at halftime. However, in also somewhat typical fashion, the Lions came storming out in the second half to even the match up at 2-2. It was not the start the club was looking for, but it was also a point, which in the grand scheme of things was not a horrible result, considering how many new Lions took the pitch for Head Coach James O’Connor.
March 9 at Chicago Fire
Prediction: 1-1 draw.
Actual: 1-1 draw.
The one prediction I somehow nailed is the one that should not have been. In a match the Lions led from the 47th minute on a Dom Dwyer goal (assist from Nani) and playing against a 10-man Fire squad, three points were yanked out from under the squad in the 94th minute by C.J. Sapong. It was heartbreaking to watch the Lions drop two points at the final whistle, but was good to see them as the more dominant team. You could see the chemistry starting to build, but also could certainly see where it needed a lot more work.
March 16 vs Montreal Impact
Prediction: 2-1 City.
Actual: 3-1 Impact.
The Lions never looked to have a chance in this match. Falling behind in only the 14th minute, and then falling two behind less than 60 seconds later by the first of two from Ignacio Piatti, the Lions were chasing the entire match. On an interesting note, it was Santiago Patino’s MLS debut, and he did the next best thing to scoring by notching his first MLS assist to Dom Dwyer on the Lions’ only goal. Orlando just cannot find the right combination of things to beat Montreal; however, the club will have one more chance this season on June 1 to right the ship against the Canadian Eastern Conference foes.
March 23 at New York Red Bulls
Prediction: 2-1 RBNY.
Actual: 1-0 City.
In what was arguably a fairly sloppy match for both sides, the Lions marched into New Jersey and started the season off undefeated against the New York clubs. The most unlikely of heroes was none other than former Red Bull Sacha Kljestan, slotting a beautiful cross from Joao Moutinho into the net in the 73rd minute, and celebrating in a very muted fashion on his old pitch. The work rate of the Lions’ defense was one of the standout items from this one, as was walking away with the first win of the season — on the road, no less — against last season’s Supporters Shield winners and an Eastern Conference rival.
March 31 vs D.C. United
Prediction: 3-2 City.
Actual: 2-1 D.C. United.
Again, and again, and again, we lament this club’s penchant for falling behind early, then storming back. This match was no different, except the end result favored the visitors at the final whistle. Set pieces were the difference in this match. D.C. United scored both of their goals on set pieces, including the still debated second goal (the foul call, the ball placement, contact with the goalkeeper), and the Lions were not able to capitalize on any. In a match that saw the Lions hold the advantage in virtually every metric, it just was not the Lions’ day as they suffered their second straight home loss. On a slightly brighter note, Orlando had been the only club to score against D.C. United in open play (until yesterday).
Month one is in the books, and I boldly predicted the club would end March with 10 out of 15 points. Well, the club walked out of the month with a solid five points, including a road win against New York Red Bulls. It is a club still trying to find its feet, and I will adjust as such, because reality is certainly starting to set in.
How did you think the Lions did in March? Did the club drive you to be that emo individual locked in the closet listening to nothing but the Smiths, or has what you have seen given you a solid dose of PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) and you are looking forward to the road ahead?
Now is the time!