The summer months have not been kind to Orlando City in its MLS tenure, with July and August being the worst historically. This year, you could compound that even further due to a slightly more compacted MLS schedule and a deep run into the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
Still, despite the crowded fixture schedule, Orlando City had its best August in the team’s MLS era at 2-2-2 and eight points. Previously, the Lions’ best months of August were in 2015 (1-3-2, 5 points) and 2016 (1-2-2, 5 points). It was also Orlando’s second-best July, with a 1-3-2 record and five points, eclipsed only by July of 2016, when the club went 1-2-3 for six points.
So let’s review and see just how well I read the tea leaves for the set of August fixtures.
Aug. 3 vs. FC Dallas
Prediction: The Lions will finally score against Dallas in a match that sees a bit more of the offensive spark in a 2-1 victory for Orlando.
Actual: 2-0 Lions.
After the shellacking the Lions took in New England the match prior, it was a big boost to come back home and not only finally score a goal against Dallas, but to get a win against the Texas side. In another oddity, the Lions were leading early, after a 13th-minute assist from Ruan to Tesho Akindele. Carlos Ascues helped secure the three points with a goal in the 91st minute on an assist from Sacha Kljestan. I will even go so far as to say it was one of the prettiest goals the boys have scored this season.
Aug. 6 vs. Atlanta United FC (U.S. Open Cup)
Prediction: OCSC pushes Atlanta’s road loss record to seven after a huge win, 3-2.
Actual: 2-0 Atlanta.
Ugh. Everything about this match looked like it should have been a much closer scoreline, but the Lions’ issues in front of goal and in the final third were on full display again. I’m not quite sure how or why, but Atlanta has certainly become Orlando’s boogeyman.
Aug. 10 at Toronto FC
Prediction: I’m seeing a 1-1 draw with the Lions bringing a point back home.
Actual: 1-1 Draw.
Bingo lollipop. Although the prediction was right, it could, or even should, have been wrong. It was a back-and-forth match for the entirety of play. Although the Lions came out a bit flat, they did well to quickly adjust and maintain pressure on Toronto, not giving up easy passing lanes or letting the Reds get comfortable in the Orlando defensive third. After a scoreless first half, Benji Michel subbed on in the 68th minute and then in the 69th put the Lions ahead on the road. Unfortunately, Benji also got called for a foul that was originally given as a penalty kick, only to be reviewed and spotted just outside the box. Toronto converted on the ensuing play from the free kick and the match ended in a draw.
Aug. 14 vs. Sporting Kansas City
Prediction: The home team trend continues with OCSC winning 2-0.
Actual: 1-0 Lions.
Can I still claim victory for predicting a victory if I am off by one on goals scored, but correctly predicted the shutout? On a night when the Lions just didn’t look good, it was beneficial that the visitors looked a little worse. It was a tense match, as they all have been recently, but it was another match where the Lions went up early. Ascues tracked on a lovely through pass into the box and one-timed a drop-back pass toward the center of the box that Akindele pounced on.
Aug. 17 at Minnesota United FC
Prediction: The Lions struggle on the road and fall 2-0 to the Loons.
Actual: 1-1 Draw.
One of those times where a missed prediction is a great thing. As much as I want to sit here and say Orlando will win every match, it just isn’t reality and frankly, it is a pleasure to have the boys prove me wrong. This also stands as another one of those leaving two points on the table matches. The defense played spectacularly, and they needed to considering the pressure they were under all match. Nani put the Lions up in the 70th minute from the spot, and it honestly looked like the boys were going to be packing three points to bring home, and then the 91st minute happened...again. This match also saw Mauricio Pereyra’s first minutes as Lion.
Aug. 23 vs. Atlanta United FC
Prediction: I’m rolling with a 2-1 OCSC victory because I feel good about August.
Actual: 1-0 Atlanta.
This one hurts more than most, because the Lions had every opportunity to take this match, but just could not put the ball into the net, despite creating 17 chances. If Orlando is going to compete consistently in the East, and in MLS in general, it must find a way to put chances away, and this match proves why.
Aug. 31 at San Jose Earthquakes
Prediction: I’m predicting a 2-2 draw for the Lions on the road.
Actual: 3-0 Quakes.
Ouch. The Lions ended August on a pretty nasty road loss. The Lions, from start to finish, just looked tired, dazed, and a bit confused for most of the first half. I guess that is what happens when you go down by one in the third minute, down by two in the 20th minute, and down by three in the 33rd minute. It certainly was not a good way to end August, but there were a few bright spots. The Lions did look much better in the second half and Cristian Higuita returned to the field of play. I would also say that seeing Head Coach James O’Connor make changes immediately at halftime was a positive, as that is not something we have seen much of from this club to date. Adding to the dismay was hearing that Pereyra had picked up a knock and didn’t travel for this match.
What a couple of months it has been. I thought for sure Orlando City would get a win against Atlanta in August, and I honestly thought it was going to be the Open Cup match. I predicted the club would bring home 11 points in August and the Lions captured eight. Considering how August has treated the club the past few seasons, I think the growth and potential is becoming more and more obvious.