Resetting Expectations for Orlando City in 2024

What expectations are reasonable for Orlando City fans for the remainder of the 2024 MLS season?



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

After another agonizing loss at home a week ago to FC Cincinnati, Orlando City finds itself near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings almost a third of the way through the regular season. For an organization that entered the 2024 Major League Soccer season with lofty expectations, the beginning of the season has fallen significantly short of preseason projections.

For the most part, the facts that supported those preseason projections still mainly hold true. Orlando brought back its core offensive and defensive pieces, made some specific and pointed acquisitions in an attempt to upgrade, and was still managed by a coach who had enjoyed unparalleled success at the helm for the club.

So with all those things holding true, the head scratching question at this point in the season is what has gone wrong? During the first five to six weeks of the season, Orlando had to balance the regular season and Concacaf Champions Cup. Those days are now long past and that excuse for poor on-field performances no longer holds water.

In years past, Orlando has demonstrated its ability to grow into the season and last year’s record-setting team didn’t find its form until after the Leagues Cup competition. Nonetheless, Orlando City fans have not seen a team stumble out of the gate this badly in recent years. It’s time to reset the expectations for the 2024 MLS season and look to see what the team would have to do to turn the season on its head.

In 2023, Orlando City put up a club-record 63 points by season’s end, but if we break down the numbers of the early season, we can see that it might not be time to press the panic button just yet. Through the first 10 matches of 2023, Orlando put up 14 points on a 4-4-2 record with a goal differential of zero. Orlando City currently sits on nine points through its first 10 matches with a 2-5-3 record and a -7 goal differential. On the surface, those numbers seem to be a stark contrast to one another, but when you take into account a five-goal drubbing at Inter Miami, the goal differential that the team is supporting this year is mainly dragged down by one forgettable outing.

Add in a short-handed loss in Atlanta earlier in March, when the team was banged up and missing Wilder Cartagena due to suspension, as well as a heartbreaking last-ditch collapse against Toronto FC two weeks ago, and the picture starts to look less bleak than just what the numbers would suggest. Still, good teams find ways to not drop points at home and to manage matches where there are pieces of the machine missing.

With 24 matches still on the schedule, there is time to climb the table, but with every dropped point or bad loss the clock ticks closer to midnight and the margin for error becomes smaller.

In 2023, Charlotte FC snuck into the playoff wild card position with 43 points on the season, and only 10 wins. It doesn’t seem wildly out of the imagination that Orlando could reach that level this year. Extrapolating the data going back to 2021, with the current MLS playoff qualifications, a team would need an average of 44 points to make the postseason. That equates to Orlando needing 35 points over its final 24 matches — or 1.45 points per match — to reach the wild card round.

A somewhat more lofty goal would be qualifying for the playoffs without the wild card. Again, going back to average the seventh-place spot in the East over the last three years, Orlando would need to reach 48 points this season to avoid a play-in game. That equates to 39 points over the final 24 matches, or 1.62 points per match. In 2023, Orlando managed 49 points over its final 24 matches of the year — that’s 2.04 points per match.

I am not projecting Orlando to go on that same massive (MLS best) type of run over the summer and fall portions of the season, but I do believe that when it comes to expectations on the season there is still hope to be had for Orlando qualifying for the playoffs. The more likely scenario would be for Orlando to end up in the wild card matchup, but with a few extra matches breaking Orlando’s way, it is not a stretch yet to consider the club could climb slightly higher. There is also still the Leagues Cup on the horizon, and regardless of one’s opinion on the competition, a deep, competitive run in that competition could give meaning to the Lions’ 10th anniversary season.

We can likely put to bed the hopes of competing for the Shield or the top spot in the East at this point in the season, given the number of teams above the Lions and the number of matches remaining. However, it is still far too early to give up on the season as a whole. Orlando was five minutes away from going undefeated in the month of April, and there are still meaningful and winnable games on the calendar ahead. My recalibrated expectation of the season is for Orlando to earn a wild card spot, and anything above that would be gravy as far as I am concerned.

What reset expectations do you have for the year? Let us know in the comments below and as always, Vamos Orlando!


Exit mobile version