After playing 10 matches in the 2022 Major League Soccer season, Orlando City sits third in the Eastern Conference on 17 points. There have been some highlights, like the 2-0 opening day win over CF Montreal and the 2-0 road victory over the Columbus Crew, and there have been lowlights like the 3-0 humbling at home by the New York Red Bulls. Thus far it’s been tough to get a good read on the team, but Orlando has done well to be near the top of the East while not always playing with consistent form week to week. Looking ahead in the schedule shows that the next two months are very important ones for the Lions, and should help tell us a lot more about this team.
Of the seven league games OCSC plays during May and June, five will be on the road. Starting tomorrow, three in a row — not counting the U.S. Open Cup date with Philadelphia — will be played away from home before the Lions alternate home and away dates twice to close out June. None of the road matches are particularly close either. Orlando travels to Canada on back-to-back weeks, before heading to Austin. The Lions then travel to New England before hosting the Houston Dynamo, and end June by traveling to Cincinnati. The amount and distance of travel alone makes the two months a stiff test of Orlando’s convictions, but there’s more.
Of the seven teams the Lions face over the next two months, only two are currently below the playoff line — Toronto and New England, which sit ninth and tenth, respectively. Both teams have been inconsistent to start the year, but we all know what New England is capable of and both matches are on the road. As for the other five opponents, Montreal is fourth in the East with a game in hand, while Cincinnati is sixth. Out west, Austin has been the surprise team of the year and is currently second, with Dallas in fourth and Houston in seventh. Austin trails only LAFC when it comes to points across both conferences, and Dallas has only lost once this year behind a red hot Jesus Ferreira.
The upshot of all this is that the next two months are not going to be easy ones. Tack on Antonio Carlos’ longterm injury and some currently walking wounded in Tesho Akindele and Silvester van der Water, and Orlando will start the stretch of games looking a little thin in certain areas. The arrival of Jake Mulraney mitigates some of those issues at winger, but it remains to be seen how much firepower he’ll contribute offensively or whether he’ll be more of a depth piece.
There is some good news, though. Orlando has two draws and two wins in road games so far, and if not for a maddeningly terrible handball call and a silly late challenge in the box, would likely have four wins out of four. That road form is encouraging ahead of the gauntlet facing the Lions, and while it’s unlikely the team will stay undefeated in five more games on the road, it’ll be a good litmus test.
Orlando is still coming together, and we don’t quite know the true level of this team yet. The additions of Ercan Kara and Facundo Torres, along with the return of Alexandre Pato from injury, mean that the forward half of this team is still getting used to playing with each other. Going on the road and getting results in MLS is not easy, and this stretch of road games is going to be difficult. But if the team can come through it in reasonably good shape, it might go a long way towards instilling chemistry and belief in this group. Of course, if things go poorly, then it could put Orlando in a hole in the Eastern Conference that it needs to dig itself out of. Either way, we’re going to know a lot more about this team by the time July rolls around.