Our City: Orlando’s Rough Week



Our City is a weekly column dedicated to the culture surrounding Orlando City and Major League Soccer.

It has been a rough week for Orlando City. Scratch that, it has been the roughest of weeks for our Lions. An embarrassing loss to lower-league in-state rivals Miami FC in the U.S. Open Cup, and star striker Cyle Larin making headlines for a DUI arrest all made for a couple of days the Lions want to forget. Like a lot of us, the guys looked to put the week behind them and head out on a Saturday night, cut loose, and put their worries behind them.

For a while, they did just that. Free flowing and creative, the team played some of the best 45 minutes of soccer it has played all season. However, defensive lapses allowed a bunkered Montreal Impact to make the most of their chances. Stoppage-time heroics from defender Jonathan Spector salvaged a point from a game Orlando should have easily won. Late goals from a team that sticks together when its back is against the wall are sure to make the crowd roar in the moment, but the drive home from the stadium leaves you reflective to the hows and whys the team found itself in that position to begin with against a very pedestrian Montreal Impact club.

Without faulting the team’s heart and unity, the loss against Miami and last night’s lost points at home against Montreal point to some real issues for our Lions as they take to the road for the next three games, with a tough match-up against Eastern Conference-leading Toronto FC waiting for them before the Gold Cup break. Depending on how the next four games go, maybe that break can’t come soon enough.

June had started out much better than May, with a solid win against D.C. United and an inspired nine-man performance to earn a draw against a talented Chicago Fire club. It was the kind of performance that should have been a turning point, one of those games we look back at in October as a marker of when fortunes changed. Instead, the team is still searching for consistency after a disconcerting Open Cup loss and lucky tie last night.

The U.S. Open Cup is structured in a way that gives the advantage to Major League Soccer clubs. Their entry in the fourth round usually gives them a cupcake game against a lower-league opponent. With no disrespect to Miami, which played up to the occasion, the match should have been an easy one for Orlando. With a lineup built around bench players and talented second-team players, Jason Kreis hoped to reward players with playing time and a chance to catch the eye of the coach for more runs with the first team. The depth that Kreis felt existed after an impressive away draw at San Jose seems to have been an apparition.

Last night seemed to expose Orlando’s weaknesses. While the attack created 17 chances, seven of which were on target, there was always a hole in the attack. Specifically, a 6-foot-2 Canadian hole. Kaká and company sought to adjust their attacking strategies, but, as the story of two halves exhibited, that is a work in progress.

Orlando’s defense showed vulnerabilities, too. Goalkeeper Joe Bendik has made a habit of being heroic the past two seasons, but when our superhero forgets his cape, nothing good seems to happen for Orlando in the defensive third. Like the offense without Larin, the defense still seems to be a work in progress. That said, I think the four in back Orlando finished with — Scott Sutter, Tommy Redding, Spector, and Donny Toia — form the best lineup. Similarly, an attack of Carlos Rivas, Giles Barnes, Kaká, MPG, Will Johnson, and Cristian Higuita is the best Larin-less attacking look.

See, that is exactly the thing, I haven’t lost faith in this group. As crazy as it sounds after the past week, I still expect this group (without a major summer signing) to compete in the playoffs. Not simply “make the playoffs,” but to make a run. I strongly believe in this team, but May and the beginning of June have not been good enough.

I’m the first to argue that the Open Cup should always be secondary to the league, that MLS is a crazy league built on the kind of parity that creates home draws for teams in fourth place against teams in ninth, and that teams and players aren’t always as perfect as we cheer for them to be. But Orlando expects better. Our club was built on bold visions and winning trophies, our club has always been held accountable when that vision falls short. 

What do you think? Do you still have belief in this team? How do you see the team reacting with the next three games on the road? Add your thoughts below!


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