Orlando City fell 1-0 on the road to rival Atlanta United, kicking off a three-match week with a loss. Here are three takeaways from the match:
1. Scoring issues
The fact that Orlando City has scored three goals in five matches, and that all of those goals have come thanks to Nani, is not just a Dom Dwyer issue.
Dwyer hasn’t scored in six matches. His issues – and he had them as of Sunday – are a problem for the Lions. He is expected to deliver goals – the chant Orlando City supporters have for him is evidence of that.
The issue for Orlando City is no one outside of Nani, fortunate deflection against Vancouver and all, seems capable of finishing chances right now. Tesho Akindele (one on-target shot against Atlanta United) and Chris Mueller (four shots, one on target) both have gone goal-less since a four-goal slugfest against the Colorado Rapids.
“It’s not just Dom. I think Dom’s had a couple of chances, obviously, to take,” Orlando City coach James O’Connor said after Sunday’s match. “Mueller’s had a another one where, perhaps, he could just slip to Tesho and we could get in. Ruan’s had one inside the six. Will [Johnson] had one as well.”
Dwyer’s misses are a problem. He had clear chances against Atlanta United and NYCFC. His misses aren’t the problem. Because this issue was supposed to be addressed in the offseason. O’Connor said he wanted this team to have balance. He wanted the team to rely on more than just one player to produce goals.
That lack of balance has just shifted to Nani. Early on, it seemed like Orlando City would get contributions from a host of attacking players. That has changed since the Colorado Rapids match. Dwyer’s scoring woes are magnified for the same reason it’s weird Josué Colmán doesn’t play all that much – he’s a designated player, which means higher expectations.
While it’s easy to focus on Dwyer, there is a group of players the Lions need to finish chances in order for the team to be successful.
Orlando City suffered its second consecutive loss on Sunday. So far, it’s been a wildly inconsistent season for the Lions, but Sunday’s loss marked the first time this season the Lions have lost back-to-back matches.
The Lions are trying to avoid yet another long losing streak. Midfielder Johnson said after Sunday’s match the team has a choice. Either this turns into another “lost season” for Orlando City or the team improves.
Things don’t get another easier with a cross-country trip to Seattle for a match against the Sounders Wednesday.
“Listen, we’re trying to stay positive,” Johnson said. “We’re trying to stay upbeat, understanding there’s another game Wednesday where a group of guys will get an opportunity. Another big game then back at home this Sunday. There’s a lot of soccer left to be played. Guys are optimistic.
“We’re disappointed in our quality today, especially in the final third. We executed our game plan exactly the way we wanted to. We did enough to get something out of the game. Obviously, we didn’t. So, it’s about somehow finding a way now to continue to have performances like that with a little more quality.”
3. More energy
If nothing else, the energy was there in the second half for Orlando City. The Lions looked lifeless a week ago against Toronto FC. Against Atlanta United, albeit in an indoor venue, the Lions kept up their attacking energy throughout the match.
“It’s a bit frustrating,” Akindele said about the team’s slump. “You kind of have to just have that bounce-back mentality. We have another game coming on Wednesday. We can’t just sit here in our frustration. We have to reset and just get ready for that game.”
He added, “I think today especially it was just the chances were there, we’ve just got to put them in the net. Maybe other games the story is different, but today, I thought starting 30 minutes into the first half until the end of the game, I thought we were the better team.”