Orlando City is sitting at 5-7-3 on the season after 15 matches. That’s below the playoff line as Toronto sits in the last spot on 19 points — one ahead of Orlando — with the two teams having played the same number of games and holding the same goal differential (+1).
While the Lions could be doing worse in 2019, they could also be doing better. The club’s fortunes have largely hinged on which team has scored first in a match and, when conceding first, how early that goal came.
Goals Change Games
Since the team hasn’t (yet) been involved in a scoreless draw this season, Orlando City is 3-0-2 in 2019 when scoring first and 2-7-1 when conceding the game’s first goal. That’s 11 out of 15 (73%) possible points gained when the Lions have struck first and only seven points out of a possible 30 (23%) when the opponents have drawn first blood. Despite the “Cardiac Cats” moniker, the Lions’ fortunes fall dramatically when conceding first.
Power Outages and Surges
The statistics in the paragraph above are largely due to the Lions’ lack of offense to date in 2019. Orlando has scored 22 goals this season, which puts Orlando in a 12th-place tie for most goals in the league this year. While that’s a middle-of-the-pack number, 12 of those 22 goals came in just three games — a 4-3 home win over Colorado, a 5-1 home win over FC Cincinnati, and a 3-0 road win at Montreal. The only other time Orlando has scored more than one goal in a match came on opening day in a 2-2 draw against New York City FC. In other words, Orlando is 3-0-1 when scoring more than one goal and just 2-7-2 otherwise.
Orlando City has scored 10 goals across the matches in which it has gone 2-7-2. That’s less than one per match and the Lions have been shut out three times. All three of those shutouts have come in the team’s last six games. However, two of the team’s three biggest offensive outbursts this year have come in the last three matches, so it’s hard to get a read on the trend other than to say the offense has to get more consistent.
A good way to help with that is to get more contributions from non-forwards. Orlando has only two goals scored by players who haven’t primarily seen their minutes on the forward line. Nani (8), Tesho Akindele (5), Dom Dwyer (4), and Chris Mueller (3) have combined to score 20 of the team’s 22 goals. Two goals have come from the midfield — one each by Sacha Kljestan and Will Johnson. Occasional contributions from Sebas Mendez, Cristian Higuita, and anyone on the back line would be a big help. As much as Moutinho and Ruan get forward, they need to look for opportunities to score and be more clinical with those efforts.
Building a Wall by Finding a Back Four
Defensively, the team has been more sound in 2019, conceding more than two goals only twice — both times allowing three. The Lions fell 3-1 at home to Montreal back on March 16 and conceded three goals in that wild 4-3 home win over Colorado. At this same point last year, the team had conceded three or more times in four games. But the 2018 team also had seven games in which it conceded twice compared to five in 2019. So the defense has gotten a little better, especially in recent weeks.
The Lions have conceded more than one goal only twice in the last eight matches (compared to five times in the first seven) and has seemed to settle in with a primary back line of Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Lamine Sané, and Ruan during that time frame. That back four has been together in six of the last eight games, going 3-2-1 with those four in the back — allowing more than one goal in a game just once, vs. Toronto — and 0-2-0 when the Lions have changed it up. In fact, Orlando is 2-5-2 in all games with a back line that doesn’t consist of Moutinho, Jansson, Sané, and Ruan this year.
The Darkest Minutes
Aside from how many goals teams have scored against Orlando this season, which seems to be trending better in 2019 overall and in the last two months in particular, there’s the matter of when opponents are scoring. The opposition has scored in the first 19 minutes nine times in 15 matches this year, doing so in eight different games — Montreal did it twice on March 16.
The darkest minute for Orlando in 2019 is the 19th. In that awful 60-second span, the Lions have conceded three times this season — at Real Salt Lake, at Seattle, and home vs. the Galaxy. All of them were the game’s first goal and Orlando has lost all three of those matches. The second-worst minute has been the 14th, in which City has conceded twice — vs. Montreal and at Atlanta, which were also both losses. Conceding in those two brutal minutes of the game has produced five Orlando losses in 2019, and no wins or draws. So hold your breath at minutes 14 and 19.
Conversely, Orlando has scored in the first 19 minutes of a game just once this season — Nani’s 18th-minute goal in a 1-1 draw at New York City FC. In fact, the Lions have scored just seven goals at any point in the first half and three of those came in the most recent game at Montreal. Grabbing an early goal would be a good way to improve upon scoring first.
All of these numbers can make your brain hurt if you let them. The simplest synthesis of these statistics is this:
- Overall, Orlando isn’t scoring enough this season and must find a way to scratch out a second goal in more games, because getting two exponentially improves the team’s outcomes.
- The Lions must score first more often, but without pressing to try to get on top the way they did in the 1-0 home loss to the LA Galaxy.
- Orlando City must learn to survive the first 19 minutes of games, as the team seems to settle in nicely after that. Scoring in those first 19 minutes, or at least some time in the first half, might help.
- Finally, Orlando must keep its best back four on the pitch together whenever possible.