Well, that wasn’t what I was hoping for. Despite getting an early goal, Orlando City SC fell on the road to the Houston Dynamo courtesy of two late goals. Without any further ado here are my five takeaways from the loss.
Quick Start for Orlando
Orlando City had the absolutely perfect start to the game. The team scored a sixth-minute goal with its very first chance and first shot on target. The Lions won a free kick on the right wing in the attacking half and Mauricio Pereyra stepped up and put a perfect ball in the box for Dom Dwyer to head home at the far post. Unfortunately, that was about as good as it got offensively for the men in purple.
A Tale of Two Halves
Orlando didn’t necessarily own the first half even though the Lions were the ones to score the opening goal. While Dwyer forced a very good save in the top left corner of Joe Willis’ goal, that was the last shot Orlando managed until the 75th minute, once the team had already lost the lead. Aside from the last 10 or so minutes, Houston completely owned the second half, and for me there was always a feeling that a breakthrough by the Dynamo was coming. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time that OCSC fans have seen the story of the team’s opponents gaining ground in the second half; and even more unfortunately it ended in much the same way it has in recent times.
Tactics Cost Lions
I’ve never been a big fan of sitting back, inviting pressure, and trying to protect a lead by throwing 11 men behind the ball. While it can certainly make it more difficult for a team to be broken down, those tactics require an immense amount of concentration and cohesion. Besides that, it’s just a dangerous and risky game to play. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what the Lions tried to do. There was a reason Orlando didn’t record a shot between the 31st and 75th minutes — the team wasn’t going out of its way to try to shoot. Rather the plan was to try and soak up pressure, protect the one-goal lead, and steal out of Houston with all three points. If it had worked it would have been a heroic effort. But it didn’t, and unfortunately the failure to protect a lead isn’t exactly something new.
Continuation of Recent Struggles
Orlando City has blown leads against the Portland Timbers, Toronto FC, Philadelphia Union, Minnesota United, LAFC, and now the Houston Dynamo — all since the beginning of July. Furthermore, all of those leads were lost in the second half. Three points from even half of those games puts Orlando in the playoffs, and the team’s inability to close out games in the second half has been downright infuriating. It’s by no means the only issue the team has faced this season. Goals have been pretty hard to come by and struggling to score is always going to make it difficult to be a successful soccer team. But the fact is that being able to secure three points from a winning position is one of the big differences between teams in the playoffs and teams that aren’t.
Playoff Push All But Dead
All of these things mean that while Orlando’s late season charge for the last playoff spot isn’t technically over after this game, it’s everything but. The Lions have two games left in the regular season and are five points out of seventh place. Making the postseason is mathematically still possible but pretty much everything needs to go right and then some in order for it to happen. Adding insult to injury is the fact that Chicago and New England, two of the three teams standing between the Lions and seventh, both drew last night. Unfortunately Orlando was unable to make the most of an early lead, and the golden opportunity the team missed to move up in the standings will most likely prove fatal.
The most frustrating thing for me about the loss is the manner in which it happened. The more I watched, the more I felt like I was seeing old patterns repeating themselves, to the point that I could have been watching any number of those six games I touched on above when the team blew a second-half lead. It’s certainly still possible that everything falls Orlando’s way but the chances of that happening must surely be astronomically thin.
That’s how I saw this one. Be sure to let me know what you guys thought down in the comments.