Orlando City Soccer 2017 MLS Half Term Report

Filed under: Florida News,Orlando City Soccer |

Minnesota United , Orlando City, TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Miinnesota

The half way point of the 2017 Major League Soccer season has been reached for Orlando City Soccer as they sit in 4th place in the Eastern Conference.

The season has been a mixed bag starting with some scintillating home results where the team managed to roll out five successive victories that formed the platform for the 26 points haul the team has amassed.

At the start of the season all eyes were on the signings that Jason Kreis would make to strengthen his squad. The team had the worst goals against record (60 in 34 matches) in the whole of MLS in 2016  so major surgery was needed in that department and Kreis performed well. In came Jonathan Spector, Scott Sutter, Donny Toia and Victor “PC” Giro to complement José Aja, Tommy Redding, Rafael Ramos, Seb Hines and Kevin Alston. Out went Luke Boden, Tyler Turner, Brek Shea, David Mateos and Mikey Ambrose.

In the 17 games to date the defense has conceded 22 goals and 10 of those goals came in three games against New York City FC (3), Houston Dynamo (4) and Montreal Impact (3). Overall, the defence has proven to have a strong backbone and has put in some excellent performances particularly at home. The addition of Spector, Sutter and Toia has given the side a real platform to build on as well as the necessary experience to keep their opponent at bay.

Orlando City Soccer 2 LA Galaxy 1, Orlando City Stadium, Orlando, 15th April 2017 (Photographer: Nigel G Worrall)

In midfield, Kries bought in more experience with the addition of Will Johnson and Giles Barnes as well as the promotion of young Pierre Da Silva from OCB. Outgoing was firm fan favorite Kevin Molino to Minnesota as well as Harrison Heath who joined Ambrose at Atlanta United.

Upfront, Kries decided to let Júlio Baptista and Pedro Riberio leave and to leave his attacking options with Cyle Larin, Carlos Rivas, Kaká and Hadji Barry.

In this regard the decisions of the Head Coach can be hotly debated but what cannot be disputed is that the team really struggles to score goals. The team has scored just 20 times to the half way mark of the season and three of those goals came in the entertaining 3-3 draw with Montreal Impact. Larin has 8 goals in 15 appearances while Kaká (10 games) and Rivas (17 games) have 3 apiece.

In terms of overall play it is widely recognized that MLS is a league where the standard of play is pretty similar between all teams. What maybe surprising to note is that Orlando actually seems to dominate play away from home more than they do at their brand new stadium. Five times in seven games the Lions have had more possession than the home team but unfortunately, results don’t always pay heed to who is the dominant team as the men in purple have only managed one win and two draws for a paltry 5 points on the road.

At Orlando City Soccer stadium, the home team has been dominated by their opposition in half of their games yet they have only been beaten once in collecting six victories, three draws and one loss for 21 points… some testament to the fantastic backing from the home fans can be attributed here.

Orlando City Soccer vs Chicago Fire, Orlando City Stadium, Orlando, 4th June 2017 (Photographer: Nigel G Worrall)

The MLS Secondary transfer window opens from 10th July to 9th August and if Orlando is to make the play offs for the first time since joining the league in 2015, they may want to consider some transfer moves. The team has done reasonably well so far this season but it could have done even better, in our opinion, if the Head Coach decided to always field his strongest team.

Several times this season Kreis decided that roster rotation needed to be an important factor, particularly in away games. This has cost the team the settled defence it enjoyed in the winning home run and it is no surprise that over the last month the team has gone back to leaking goals, most of them from unforced errors.

One of the big decisions Kreis made was to change three members of the defence that managed a clean sheet against DC United a few days before for the game against Chicago Fire. Orlando ended up that game with nine men in a match most fans will remember because of the performance of match referee Ted Unkel. However, it must be said that had this game ended with 11 v 11, it is highly likely that the visitors would have won as they were by far the dominant side in exploiting gaps in the City defence before the controversial dismissal of Ramos.

In midfield, the team has really struggled to control games and it is this department that needs to be examined in Kreis’s quest for the Holy Grail in having a “complete performance.” At times, the team has simply overplayed the ball when in possession. Passing the ball sideways in short 5 or 10 yard passes from one side of the pitch to the other side and back again. Even free kicks in the opposition half that should present an opportunity to threaten the opposition goal have sometimes ended up back with Goalkeeper Joe Bendik.

Orlando City Soccer 2 Philadelphia Union 1, Orlando City Soccer Stadium, Orlando, 18th March 2017 (Photographer: Nigel G Worrall)

The big worry for the Head Coach will be in attack. Larin has been asked to do the bulk of the heavy lifting with support roles at times from Rivas, Kaká and Barnes. Unfortunately, Larin’s absence from the team, through a DUI arrest, has only highlighted the real deficiency the team has in this department. For two seasons Larin has been the clubs top goalscorer in MLS and is on his way to collecting the honor for the third straight season. It is an enormous workload to pour on 22 year old shoulders and frankly, he is crying out for help.

In the early part of the season Carlos Rivas showed some exciting touches and helped Larin out but in more recent performances Rivas has been lacking in terms of quality. No-one will ever question his work rate but his overall touch has been poor and his non ability to finish when presented clear opportunities to score the first goal of the game (Minnesota / Seattle) have really cost his team.

Orlando City Soccer 2 Colorado Rapids 0, Orlando City Stadium, Orlando, 29th April 2017 (Photographer: Nigel G Worrall)

Unfortunately, Kreis has few options in this department as things stand. Larin has been ruled out for a number of games while MLS puts him through a rehabilitation program and that means the Head Coach is relying on other players to come to the fore. Sadly, Hadji Barry isn’t making the progress required while Barnes and Kaká aren’t capable of playing the lone striker or hold up striker role.

What this all means is that Orlando must make some astute signings soon. The team is hanging onto 4th position in the Eastern Conference but it desperately needs some reinforcements in midfield and in attack. One can only speculate what a Bastian Schweinsteiger orchestrating play in the middle of the park would have done for Orlando’s midfield. Instead, he went to Chicago, a team that finished bottom of the Supporters Shield standings in 2016, now lying second in the Eastern Conference with as many points (31) from 16 games as they managed in the whole season last time out.

If Orlando can bring in one or two dominant central midfielders and a good quality striker, it really isn’t far from being a very competitive team capable of winning the 2017 MLS Cup. Hopefully team ownership will support Kreis in this regard and if it does, Orlando’s deserving fans can look forward to exciting times ahead. Half a season remains and if the team could turn around it’s away results, it really could be in a strong position as the race to the play offs warms up.


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