“Juuuuuuuust a bit outside.” — Harry Doyle, Major League
Orlando City SC has three professional soccer teams and not one of them found the net this past weekend. While it was the first time the MLS side has been shut out in 2019, the Pride and OCB have made not scoring a habit this season.
The Pride were shut out 1-0 at Houston last night, marking the fourth time in five games the team has failed to score under Marc Skinner. Despite boasting known offensive threats like Alex Morgan (until Sunday) and Marta, the team’s lone goal of 2019 came off a set piece and required a spectacular overhead kick from defender Alanna Kennedy to put a goal on the scoreboard.
OCB, which was the only one of Orlando City’s three teams to garner a point this weekend, drew 0-0 against Chattanooga Red Wolves SC Friday at Montverde Academy. It was just the second point earned this season for the Young Lions, but they failed to score a goal for the third time in six matches in 2019.
The senior Lions fell 2-0 at home to Toronto FC on Saturday, failing to score for the first time in 2019 despite firing 18 shots toward Quentin Westberg’s net. City has scored 13 goals in 10 matches this season, which isn’t too bad until you consider that four of them came in one game against Colorado — the worst team in MLS so far this season. The Rapids are 0-8-2 and have already fired their head coach. The Lions have put more than one goal on the board only one other time this season and that came at home in the season-opening 2-2 draw against New York City FC. It’s tough to make the playoffs when you have to shut the other team out to win games.
This weekend was a microcosm of why OCSC’s three squads are off to poor starts this season. Actually, the MLS side is doing merely “OK” at 3-4-3, with both OCB (0-4-2) and the Pride (0-4-1) still seeking their first win and not looking like any particular threat to do so.
The common problem across the teams is a maddening lack of quality in the final third. The three Orlando teams combined to take 48 shot attempts in their games this weekend — OCB took 21 on Friday, Orlando City fired 18 times on Saturday, and the Pride managed nine attempts on Sunday. But only six of those attempts across the three teams were on target. OCB led the way with four shots on goal, the senior Lions hit the target twice, and the Pride failed to get a single shot within the perimeter of the 192 square feet of area that lie between the posts from ground to crossbar.
The most worrisome team so far is the Pride and it isn’t close. Aside from the glaringly obvious four shutouts so far, Orlando’s NWSL team has hit the target on only six of 60 shot attempts (10%) in 2019. Averaging barely over a shot on goal per contest and only 8.2 unblocked shot attempts per game is not going to produce a lot of goals, and you can’t win if you don’t score at least one of those, so it’s little surprise that the Pride have yet to taste victory. To take the numbers further, the Pride’s season high for shots on target is just three (vs. Utah Royals FC). The team has failed to register a single shot on goal twice and has mustered just two on two other occasions.
[Note: the NWSL website shows Orlando having just 41 shots on the team stats page, but if you go game-by-game you’ll see there have been 60 attempts so the site is not counting blocked shots in that overall shot total in the team statistics.]
The team’s best opportunity so far for three points came at Reign FC, but Marta passed up a good shooting opportunity late in the game and Emily van Egmond missed the target badly from a good position as time wound down — unfortunately a trend rather than an exception for the Australian during her time with the club. Quality and composure in the attacking third have simply been dreadful.
Orlando City has attempted 113 shots this season, getting 36 on target (31.9%). That’s not too bad overall, which is likely why the Lions have had the most success of the three teams. OCB has gotten 22 shots on goal out of its 85 overall attempts (25.9%). The Young Lions lead USL League One in shot attempts but are dead last in conversion rate (5%).
I asked James O’Connor specifically about Saturday’s lack of getting shots on target after the match, with City only firing on target twice in 18 attempts. The Orlando City skipper chalked it up to his team’s overall lack of energy in the game, particularly in the second half.
“I think the first thing when you get tired is your decision-making goes,” he said. “And I think when you look at the decision-making — whether it’s people are trying to hit (the ball) too hard, people are giving the ball away cheaply — I think overall when you look at the decision-making second half I think it was definitely affected and the question then is ‘why was it affected?’ So that’s something that we’re going to need to look at. But obviously if we have 18 shots, we expect to have more than one, two on target.”
One of the biggest issues with all of the Orlando teams is a lack of awareness of when to release a shot, whether it’s waiting too long or simply not taking the extra movement necessary to free up the chance. Orlando City had seven of its shot attempts blocked on Saturday. In total, Orlando City has had 34 of its 113 attempts (30.1%) blocked by the defense. The senior Lions are the only one of the club’s teams to have more shots on target than shots blocked this season.
The Pride have seen 19 of their 60 attempts (31.7%) blocked in 2019. They had 11 shots out of 24 (45.8%) blocked in the first two matches alone, so at least that stat has improved a bit. Still, it’s a losing proposition to have three times as many shots blocked as attempts that find the target.
OCB has had 24 of its 85 attempts (28.2%) blocked this season. This isn’t too surprising as the Young Lions attempt a lot of long shots, which are more prone to having a greater number of defenders between the shooter and the net. The young attackers seem hesitant to take on defenders or work quick give-and-go plays at the top of the area to get into the 18 for better scoring opportunities.
One interesting statistic from Orlando City’s MLS team is that the Lions are only averaging six shot attempts per game on the road, yet they’ve been slightly more successful away from Orlando City Stadium, where they average 14.8 shots per match. Yet City is taking home 41.7% of all possible road points so far in 2019 as opposed to capturing 38.9% of all possible home points. The Lions have been held to six or fewer shots in a game three times this season — all away from home. Perhaps playing their more conservative road style at home would yield better results.
All three of Orlando’s teams need to do a better job of getting shot attempts through the opposition’s defense and, when they do, they must get the ball within the white rectangle at the end of the pitch. Otherwise, the beatings will continue.