Orlando City B’s 1-0 loss to Forward Madison FC Saturday night was its fourth straight and eighth in nine games. It’s been a miserable run for the Young Lions as their difficult 2019 season nears its end.
After being thoroughly dominated by South Georgia Tormenta FC last Wednesday night, OCB Head Coach Fernando Jose De Argila Irurita was relieved of his job. Given the difficult season the team’s had and the fact that those currently in charge of soccer operations were brought in after his appointment, there’s little surprise that he lasted less than a season. But there’s more to it than the record.
Early in the season, Irurita expressed the importance his team places on the number of shots taken. “I think the more shots the team has, the equation is easy,” he said following the team’s scoreless draw against Chattanooga Red Wolves SC on May 3.
That viewpoint was shown by the amount of shots the team has taken this season. Its 220 shots currently rank third in the USL League One. It’s had double digit shots in 12 of its 20 games played and outshot opponents in eight of its 20 games. While the team has created shots, many of those have been from distance and few have been on target.
Only twice this year have the Young Lions hit the target more frequently than the opposition and they’ve equaled the opposition on only three occasions. That means that in 15 of the past 20 games, the opponent has hit the target more frequently than OCB.
In total, only 64 of the team’s 220 shots have been on target. That’s 29%. With those numbers, it’s no wonder the team only has a 10% conversion rate, ninth in the league, and 16 goals, also second to last.
The lack of shots on goal isn’t because the team has spent most of its games defending. In fact, OCB has held the majority of possession in nine of its 20 games and split possession in three other games. In fact, the Young Lions only had less than 45% possession in five games this year.
Additionally, OCB’s been one of the better passing teams in USL League One. Its 7,744 passes this year ranks the Young Lions fourth in the league and their 81% passing accuracy is fourth as well. To put that into perspective, the top two teams in passing accuracy are North Texas SC and South Georgia Tormenta FC — the top two teams in the table. Toronto FC II, sitting in third in passing accuracy, is currently sixth in the standings, two points out of the final playoff spot.
So what’s the problem for OCB?
Two of the main issues offensively this year have been meaningless possession and poor shot selection. While the team has a high passing accuracy percentage, most of those passes occur in midfield rather than in the final third. Rather than making strong runs and playing the ball through, midfielders like Serginho and Thiago Souza will attempt to dribble within 30 yards and launch a long shot well off target. This results in a high number of shots, but few on target.
Rather than the players panicking when pressured or taking it upon themselves to take long-range shots, those type of shots were encouraged under Argila. “I’ve been training weekly (for) that type of shot,” Serginho said after scoring from distance against the Richmond Kickers. “And today I was happy enough to score the goal during the game.”
If OCB wants to see how it can improve on its conversion rate, look no further than how its been beaten by its opponents. On Wednesday night, Tormenta scored three goals in the first 23 minutes. All three goals came the same way. A quick one-two and a low hard pass into the box. Even if they don’t get a shot off, they have a better chance that way from 25 yards out.
When the Young Lions have done this, they’ve actually been quite successful. A good example of this was on April 14 against South Georgia Tormenta FC. In that game, Thiago Souza made a nice run down the right to the end line and played a low cross into the center of the box. While Bagrou’s first touch was a little strong, it set up the on-coming Ates Diouf who put it in for the game’s opening goal.
Another example was Wednesday night. OCB’s two free kick takers this season have been Serginho and Rafael Santos. The most common result of free kicks this season have been shots well high of the target. Rafael Santos did score one against FC Tucson, but that’s been a rare occurrence. Against Tormenta FC, Serginho sent a low free kick into the box. It found the foot of Souza who put it past Pablo Jara for the team’s first goal in three games.
While OCB has had possession, that possession hasn’t translated into chances in the final third. When the team has entered the opposing third of the field, its tended to take ill-advised shots rather than continuing to build the attack. When it has continued its attack, it’s actually seen quite a bit of success.
As Koby Osei-Wusu said following the team’s 4-1 loss to Tormenta FC, “We all care so much about each other and about the club that we don’t want to finish at the bottom. No matter what.” With Saturday night’s loss and Richmond’s Friday night win, that appears to be a much harder task. Making it even more difficult is that the team hasn’t seemed to learn from its past problems.
During this miserable nine-game stretch, the team has held at least half the possession in five games. It’s had double-digit shots in four of those games but has not hit the target five times in any of them. The Young Lions didn’t hit the target once against Greenvillle Triumph SC and only hit the target once in the second game against Greenville and Saturday night against Madison.
Following Wednesday night’s loss, defender Matheus Silva said, “We have to look into ourselves and go back home, get some proper rest, watch and see what we could do better, what we couldn’t do better, or what can be done better. It’s up to ourselves.”
“There’s nine games left,” Osei-Wusu added. “So if we can win a bunch of those, turn it around, we can end the season on a positive note.”
Saturday night’s loss leaves OCB in last place in USL League One and five points behind the Richmond Kickers for ninth. Its 20 games played is tied with Lansing Ignite FC for the most in the league and three more than the other eight teams. Even if the team is able to learn from its mistakes and claim some points down the stretch, it’s unlikely that it’ll be able to climb out of last place. No matter what it means to the players.