As this post is written, the Lions currently find themselves two points outside the 2017 MLS Cup qualification spots having previously been above the red line all season long.
With just two victories from our last 14 MLS fixtures, there’s no denying that we’re in a rut right now.
In all too familiar territory regarding the Eastern Conference standings, it’s worth noting that our current position is down to rather uncharacteristic reasons however.
The only important stat at the end of the season is in the points column so let’s get that out of the way first.
Based on points alone, Orlando City SC is better than it has ever been in Major League Soccer – fact.
The team finished 7th and totalled 44 points in its inaugural season, five points adrift from the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
Season two saw the team notch up 41 points, and although racking up less points, edged closer to the playoffs on points (dare we remember that agonising single point) despite finishing one place lower in 8th.
This year, the Lions are averaging 1.38 points/90, a pace that if kept up could see the team reach a team record 47 points.
But based on the rest of the league however, Orlando City SC would still miss out on that all important playoff spot, finishing 7th and three points behind Columbus Crew.
Now you start to realise why Lions supporters are so desperate for the club to take full advantage of the current secondary transfer window in MLS.
During his spell as head coach, Kreis has overseen the construction of an entirely new back four, necessary when you consider the league leading 60 goals conceded in 2016.
This equates to 1.76 per game, higher than the 1.65 per game conceded in season one, both of which exceeded the respective season averages for the rest of the league.
Currently, the new-look defence appears to be a lot sturdier and the basic stats would agree.
For the first time, in MLS, City are now conceding 1.43 goals per game which is below the rest of the league average (which is roughly 1.54/90).
On current pace, that would give Orlando City SC a workable total of 49 goals conceded in 34 games.
Indeed, Jason Kreis’ new backline of Scott Sutter, Jonathan Spector, José Aja (joining permanently after a initial loan) and Donny Toia are, on the face of it, producing the best defensive performances in the team’s short MLS history.
Given the fine margins from previous seasons, the current defence are surely doing their part to see Orlando City SC into the 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs.
So if the problem isn’t at one end of the field, it has to be at the other and sure enough, anyone who has watched Orlando City SC this season will know the team has lacked goals.
We are currently the third most impotent attack in MLS behind bottom-of-the-league D.C. United (18) and Western Conference strugglers Colorado Rapids (20). Indeed, the Lions have only managed to find the back of the net 22 times so far this season.
Having increased from 1.35 goals/90 to 1.62 goals/90 in 2016, it has been a frustrating step back this year, averaging a lowly 1.05 goals/90 – a pace which would bring a total of just 36 goals at the end of 34 regular season games.
In the six seasons that Major League Soccer sides have had 34 game schedules, only one team has made the playoffs with an equal or lower total – Vancouver Whitecaps in 2012 with 35 goals.
Still ever reliant on the team’s all-time goal scorer Cyle Larin who has netted 32% of Orlando City SC‘s goals in MLS, the Canadian international has struggled on the field as well as off it this year.
In his debut season, Larin managed an impressive average of a goal every 106 minutes. In his second season this decreased to a goal every 175 minutes and in 2017 that figure has slumped again to a goal every 189 minutes.
Needless to say Cyle Larin’s declining goal rate has been exacerbated by the off-season losses of our third highest all-time scorer and playmaker Kevin Molino to Minnesota United, and out-of-contract veteran Júlio Baptista who bagged six goals in his single season with the team.
Although he was anything but a goalscorer, Orlando City SC can no longer call on the link-up abilities of Matías Pérez García while Adrian Winter has never truly been replaced after requesting a release this time last year for family reasons.
Although forward Giles Barnes (one goal and one assist in 1,247 minutes) was brought in from Vancouver Whitecaps in a deal that saw Brek Shea leave, and Carlos Rivas has seen his role within the team increase having nearly doubled his playing time from last season already (goal or assist every 159 minutes under Kreis vs every 186 minutes under Adrian Heath), none of the aforementioned have been effectively replaced, never mind upgraded.
Also factor in 35-year-old club captain Kaká whose production has dropped from a goal or assist every 108 minutes last season to 140 minutes this season (still better than involvement every 158 minutes in his debut season) and it is no surprise that Orlando City SC are struggling right now.
It cannot be stressed enough that Orlando City SC are beyond desperate for goals if they are to make the 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs.
Assessing the Eastern Conference standings right now, our deficiencies are glaringly obvious.
The average goal difference/90 in 2015 was -0.3. Last year, even with bigger defensive issues, Orlando City SC’s increased goal tally bridged the gap down to -0.14/90.
However, despite the new and improved defence in 2017, the team’s fruitless quest for goals so far has meant Orlando City currently sit with their worst goal difference/90 during their time in Major League Soccer at -0.38.
Clearly, Jason Kreis is in the middle of a squad overhaul and has earned the Front Office’s trust to now do with the attack what he has done with the defence.
With an already lacklustre attack and questions looming large over Kaká‘s future and the ever-present worry that a European side will come knocking for Cyle Larin, there should be some relief from Orlando City SC fans that the defensive rot has been stopped to an acceptable degree.
Should the team manage to recruit some top attacking quality this transfer window, there may be purple in the playoffs after all.
Remember, you can’t lose if you don’t concede and you can’t win if you don’t score!