View from the End Line: Leadership



Leadership is something that every team needs, be it a small group of motivated individuals trying to solve a problem, a large corporation trying to maintain its corporate advantage, or a sports team on the verge of greatness or pulling itself out of the bog of mediocrity. One thing that seems to be missing from the current Orlando City squad is obvious leadership. The captain’s armband should be being passed to players who will be leaders on the pitch, as well as the guiding force in the locker room, but could this be one of the missing pieces on the current squad of players? Do the Lions have a true captain?

This season has been, well, interesting. With only four games remaining this season, the Lions are currently bottom of the Eastern Conference, haven’t scored a goal in four straight matches, and are on the verge of setting a club record for the fewest number of points won in a season. If, and this is a very big if, they are somehow able to win out the remaining four matches, the Lions would still fall short of last season’s point total of 39. I think it is all but certain that Orlando will not reach the 37 possible points, considering the Lions still have three matches in seven days, and their final match is an away to visit the New York Red Bulls, a match that could help to decide the Supporters’ Shield race. In light of all of that sunshine and sprinkles, has anyone emerged as the guiding light in this team’s further descent into madness, and the cold embrace of Cthulhu and the other Old Ones?

The captain’s band has seen different arms this season, starting with Jonathan Spector being named captain for 2018 after Kaká did not return to the club. Spector has served as the team’s captain for all 13 matches that he has started. Dom Dwyer has worn the armband once in his 22 starts for the club this season. Sacha Kljestan has started 26 matches, the most starts for any player this season, and has donned the armband 16 times. Have any of these players shown a propensity for being the captain lately, or is there another player on the pitch that should be given the chance? Sure, these three are certainly seasoned veterans with experience at the club level and beyond, but have any of them done or shown what is needed for the honor of being captain on the pitch beyond the exchange of gifts at the beginning of the match?

Captains are needed to help direct and motivate during the match, give advice when needed, call out marking schemes, offer constructive criticism to players having moments of doubt, light a fire under players not pulling their weight, and are the mouthpiece of the team to the referee crew. That last point is something that takes tact and poise, especially in MLS, but can help to sway the vision of the referee and linesmen to a more favorable view of your team, something that the Lions could have used throughout the season.

There have been a few matches of late that needed someone to step up, grab some of the players on the pitch and motivate them, possibly loudly. This isn’t something that should be seen as disrespectful — in fact, it is the opposite. The captain is there to remind everyone what their job is, and how the actions of one, or a few, can have both positive and negative effects on all of the players on the pitch, as well as the fans in the stadium cheering them on.

Young and inexperienced players are typically not chosen to be captain, for obvious reasons, but when you look at the current roster, who do the Lions have that should be allowed the opportunity to state their case as the captain moving forward for 2019? The final four matches will certainly be more experimentation, for a lack of a better term, from Head Coach James O’Connor as he works his way through the difficult discussions and data collection needed for the off-season. One item that certainly needs to be addressed is who is helping to steer the ship during the turbulent passage of match time. There are a few names that come to mind, but I wonder if language barriers would create even more issues. The ship seems lost at sea, and the crew needs a stalwart individual to grab the wheel and help guide everyone through the current tempest on the horizon.

Do you have any ideas? Let us know in the comments section below.


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