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Checking in on The Mane Land’s Preseason Predictions for Orlando City’s 2019 Campaign

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How did we do in both our “regular” and “bold” predictions for 2019?

MLS: New York Red Bulls at Orlando City SC Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

We’re past the halfway mark of the season and it’s time to look back at our staff predictions for 2019 to see how everyone is doing. Every season brings with it a number of surprises, twists, and turns, so it’s difficult to really make any sense of a thing before it happens, but we (and every other outlet) seem to do it every year.

Ultimately, what we think will happen never matters much, except to whoever gets to claim bragging rights by making a better guess than everyone else. Still, anything worth doing is worth tracking, so here goes.

Record

Here’s how the staff predicted:

Alek Pierce: 14-11-9.

Andrew Sharp: 9-13-12.

Jennifer Warren: 15-ish wins (no actual record given).

Scott Carnevale: 11-16-7.

David Rohe: 14-9-11.

The Bearded Guy: 17-13-4.

Michael Citro: 12-13-9.

Orlando City is on pace for a record of about 11-15-8 for 2019. So far, Scott is tracking closest, with only one loss and a draw swapped from where the team is on pace to finish. I’m about half a step behind. Andrew was the most pessimistic, while it seems that Dave, Jennifer, and especially our bearded guy were a bit too optimistic.

Eastern Conference Result / Playoff Result

The Lions are tracking toward missing the postseason again. Alek, Jennifer, and Dave had Orlando making the playoffs — barely, before getting eliminated. The bearded guy had the Lions finishing as high as fourth. I had Orlando in eighth, with Scott and Andrew predicting a ninth-place finish. Indeed, the Lions are currently in ninth, with 12 matches remaining.

Season MVP

Alek: Nani.

Andrew: Nani.

Jennifer: Nani.

Scott: Nani.

Dave: Dom Dwyer.

Bearded Guy: Lamine Sané.

Michael: Dom Dwyer.

Alek, Andrew, Jennifer, and Scott all went with the easy choice of Nani and he’s arguably been the team’s MVP so far this season, although he’s been much quieter in recent weeks. Dave and I went with Dom Dwyer, figuring he’d reap the rewards for having a world-class distributor to set him up. It looked like a great pick at the beginning of the season but then Dom went into a slump and, just when he started to break out of it, he hit a series of injuries and suspensions. The bearded dude went with Lamine Sané, taking a hard left turn from offense to defense. Right now I’d put Nani ahead in the team MVP race, with guys like Will Johnson, Sané, Robin Jansson, Sebas Mendez, Tesho Akindele, and Ruan all in striking distance.

Breakout Player

Alek: Chris Mueller.

Andrew: Chris Mueller.

Jennifer: Tesho Akindele.

Scott: Alex De John.

Dave: Tesho Akindele.

Bearded Guy: Benji Michel.

Michael: Sebas Mendez.

This is a more difficult category to define at the season’s midway point. Certainly Mueller has improved in 2019 but I hesitate to call him the team’s breakout player. Akindele has been surprisingly productive when you look at his past numbers. Mendez has nearly been indispensable in the Lions’ midfield, but he plays the kind of position that doesn’t rack up statistics, so he could fly under the radar for many folks. It’s safe to say that De John and Michel are role players and not the team’s breakout player of 2019 (yet, anyway). You could make an argument in favor of Akindele, Mendez, or even Mueller. But for this spot I’d say Ruan has been the breakout star, despite his quiet last month or so. But it’s been close. On the other side, Joao Moutinho has been better than expected and if not for an unfortunate injury, the team’s breakout star could have been original Lion Cristian Higuita, who brought a previously unseen level of control and consistency to his game when he finally got his opportunity this year.

Bold Prediction

Alek: The team’s goal differential will be in the black this season.

Andrew: Orlando will have three players with 10+ goals for the first time.

Jennifer: The Lions will not only make the playoffs but land solidly in fifth place.

Scott: Orlando City will improve in every statistical category from last year.

Dave: Orlando City doesn’t change coaches mid-season.

Bearded Guy: Orlando City solidifies itself as an Eastern Conference juggernaut.

Michael: Sacha Kljestan will return to his Red Bulls-level assist numbers.

Scott and Dave took the bold approach of not going very bold, so their predictions are fairly predictably on point so far. Alek’s prediction is looking solid at this point, but it could go either way. Right now the club is at dead even for goals scored and conceded. Andrew could reach his prediction of three 10+ goal scorers. Nani should reach 10 goals if he stays healthy and Akindele could probably score four more. However, Mueller or Dwyer will need to add five goals over the final 12 games. That’s doable, but that third player is in jeopardy unless Dwyer hits a hot streak.

The bearded guy and Jennifer are likely falling short. Certainly the Lions are no juggernaut in the conference, as bearded dude wrote, but a good run could conceivably find the team finish in fifth to make Jennifer’s bold prediction come true.

Mine got blown up completely. Kljestan was a beast in the preseason matches we saw when the team pressed high and played a different formation. Once the season started, Kljestan immediately fell into a deeper lying role, the team didn’t press as high or as much, and he even fell out of the full-strength starting lineup when everyone is available. Kljestan has just one assist this season. Hey, it was supposed to be a bold prediction! No one went bolder than me except maybe the bearded guy.

Season Outlook

Alek: This is the season that the Lions finally make their presence known and James O’Connor will remain at the helm at the conclusion of the season.

Andrew: Orlando City will be scrapping for the last handful of playoff spots. My biggest hope for 2019 is that it’s simply more watchable.

Jennifer: I’m quite optimistic about this season.

Scott: This season will be much more entertaining, with fewer goals allowed and more goals scored, but ultimately the Lions will miss the playoffs.

Dave: There will be marked improvement. O’Connor will have everyone pulling the same direction and the team will score many more goals. This will just be the foundation, as the 2020 season will be the year to enjoy.

Bearded Guy: It’s going to be a roller coaster, but in the end, the club will see the Promised Land. I fully expect more wins than losses, thanks to defending our home.

Michael: This team is a couple of players away from completing the overhaul it needed, I’m not convinced the young strikers will be sufficient additions, and the attacking part of the midfield is still too thin. Some steps in the right direction will be made, but I don’t know that this team is ready to join the postseason party just quite yet.

I’m not sure how “known” Orlando’s presence is, with the team in ninth place, but Alek does seem on track for O’Connor to last the season. Andrew got his wish for a more watchable team in 2019 and he’s correct that scrapping for a final playoff spot seems to be where the team is headed. Jennifer’s outlook is still up in the air with 12 matches left. Scott’s and Dave’s outlooks are tracking for now. The bearded guy’s “Promised Land” is in sight, although still off in the distance, but the team has been a train wreck at home as far as being able to grind out results, with one of the worst home records in MLS. So, that part of his outlook didn’t bear fruit.

My outlook is tracking. The team still seems a few pieces removed from contending and although both Michel and Santiago Patino show promise, they aren’t sufficient additions to replace or pick up the slack for Dwyer. There’s still little attacking bite in the midfield and that often isolates the forward line and requires the fullbacks to serve as the playmakers. Orlando is trending in the right direction but the playoffs still seem more of a mirage than the oasis for which we’re looking.