May has not typically been a great month for the Lions. In the past MLS seasons, the Lions have garnered six points, six points, five points, and three points. Without a little bit of context, this is meaningless to be honest, but one thing that makes this a bit clearer is that May is classically the beginning of summer, and the Lions have not fared well in the past few seasons over the summer months. Let’s take a look at just how far, or close, the crystal ball came to the Lions performances in May.
May 4 vs. Toronto FC
Prediction: Toronto is clicking now and the Lions’ defense isn’t quite there. 2-1 Reds.
Actual: 2-0 Toronto.
So, unfortunately, the crystal ball was a bit correct on this one. As typical for Toronto, possession and a well formed defense were too much for the Lions at home. It looked like the boys might have been able to hold on, but they came out in the second half even flatter than they played in the first. The biggest issue was, once again, a lack of finishing in the final third. The Lions had a total of 18 shots, however, only two of those were on target. Toronto was the better squad this match and showed it on the pitch.
May 12 at Atlanta United
Prediction: 2-2 draw.
Actual: 1-0 Atlanta.
Although it was another rather lifeless outing for the squad, the results at the end of 90 minutes do not necessarily give you the full story of what happened. As has happened a bit too often, the Lions fell behind early — in the 14th minute — and were never able to capitalize on the multitude of chances they created. It was a relatively even match, and the score could have been much higher for either side, and the way the second half played I was beginning to think it would open up for someone, but the goals just never materialized.
The Lions remain winless against Atlanta, and the banter continues.
May 15 at Seattle Sounders
Prediction: 1-1 draw.
Actual: 2-1 Seattle.
It was a short week for Orlando City, and Head Coach James O’Connor decided to use this match to throw everyone for a loop and change up the entire starting XI, and it almost worked to the Lions’ advantage. Playing against a Sounders XI that was very similar to their typical full-strength starters, the Lions held their own, until the 19th minute. Once again, going down early and being forced to play from behind caught up to the squad. Dillon Powers had a bad error that led to a second goal for the Sounders in the 68th minute, but atoned for his misstep in the 75th with an assist to Chris Mueller, who had just subbed onto the pitch not six minutes prior.
May 19 vs. FC Cincinnati
Prediction: 2-0 Orlando.
Actual: 5-1 Orlando.
City welcomed the new kids on the block to Orlando City Stadium and decided to wake up, in grand fashion. Unfortunately, it took a goal from FCC’s Darren Mattocks to shock the Lions to life. Tesho Akindele scored the equalizer and the clubs went into halftime tied at one apiece. It was the second half where things got a bit rambunctious. A missed penalty from Nani, and then four goals from the Lions sent the stadium into a frenzy. There was no stopping the Lions in the second half, and you could see that spark that O’Connor has been fostering starting to catch.
May 24 vs. LA Galaxy
Prediction: 3-2 LA Galaxy in a bitter match, unless Orlando really starts clicking ahead of this fixture. If the Lions beat Seattle or Atlanta, then this match will end 2-1 Orlando.
Actual: 1-0 LA Galaxy.
In a match that City dominated, and had a second consecutive penalty kick saved, it should have ended with a different score line, but again, this is sports. City out-shot a Zlatan-less Galaxy, 19-4, led possession with 57%, and stymied one of the league-leading teams without helping to make their losing streak five in a row. If there was ever a match this season that the Lions “deserved” to win because of the performance on the pitch, it would be this one. Galaxy keeper David Bingham was on another level for this match as the Lions had no answers to get the ball beyond his grasp.
The back four of Ruan, Lamine Sané, Robin Jansson, and Joao Moutinho played extremely well, and all but shut down the LA attack at every turn. The communication and trust between those four and goalkeeper Brian Rowe is growing, and was on display in this match, although the result was not what we wanted.
I predicted five points out of 15 for the month, and City claimed three. We knew this would be a tough stretch, but we also knew that we would learn about the fortitude of this group as well. I don’t know about you, but what I saw in May gives me hope moving forward. In previous seasons, the chemistry was sporadic and chaotic, and finding trends was very difficult. This season looks, and feels, like the boys are moving in the right direction. This season feels like summer may be time to gain points, not get lost in the doldrums like previous years.