If you’re like me, you’re a little disappointed with how the season seems to be ending. There’s still about a 20% chance of making the playoffs, but a lot would have to go right, and that just doesn’t seem like how things go for this club. Regardless, let’s look at some of the factors that have the Lions where they are right now.
The defense has improved significantly. Lamine Sané and Robin Jansson have become a very good center back pairing, and Brian Rowe has performed better than many expected. When healthy, João Moutinho and Ruan have been good additions. Even the play off the bench has been more than adequate from Kamal Miller, Kyle Smith, and Alex De John. Last season the defense allowed 74 goals and had a -31 goal differential. So far this season, the defense has only allowed 39 goals and has a -4 goal differential. That is a massive improvement. The club would have to allow seven goals in each of the last five matches to be as bad as last season. That won’t happen. The defense is the reason the Lions have improved in the standings this season.
Last season the Lions scored 43 goals in 34 matches for an average of 1.26 goals per match. That was good enough to tie for last in that statistic in the Eastern Conference. So far this season, Orlando City has scored 35 goals in 29 matches for an average of 1.21 goals per match. I’m no math whiz, but those averages look lower. To even match last season’s total, the Lions would need to score eight goals in the remaining five matches, which would be an average of 1.6 goals per match. There are many reasons for the lack of scoring. Dom Dwyer has been either injured or has the yips. Nani and Chris Mueller aren’t true strikers, and Benji Michel is still finding his MLS legs. Tesho Akindele has been a bright spot with his best season ever, with nine goals. I’m happy for him, but he and Nani are tied for the most goals at nine. That’s not good. LAFC’s Carlos Vela has three times that amount, with 27 goals so far.
The fact of the matter is, that this team is performing to realistic expectations given the personnel James O’Connor has at his disposal. The defense has played better than expected, the offense has played worse than expected. Making the playoffs was always going to be a close thing if it happened at all. It’s more likely than not that the team finishes below the line to end the season, and supporters will have to wait another year. It isn’t what was hoped for, but it is a part of rebuilding, and that is exactly what this year has been about.
There you have it. I don’t think it’s all bad, and the season isn’t actually done yet, so who knows? Let me know your thoughts below. Go City!