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Orlando City eliminated from playoff contention for fourth consecutive season

FC Dallas midfielder Ryan Hollingshead (12) stretches to take the ball away from Orlando City midfielder Will Johnson (4) during the first half at Toyota Stadium. (Andrew Dieb-USA TODAY Sports)

Orlando City (7-19-4, 25 points) failed to score in a fourth-consecutive match and fell 2-0 to FC Dallas on Saturday. The Lions have won just once in their last 21 games and are officially out of playoff contention. Here are three takeaways from the match: 

The offseason will be interesting

With Orlando City mathematically eliminated from playoff contention Saturday, it’s time to think about what this team will look like next season.

Orlando City engaged in a roster overhaul before the 2018 season to bring in the players former coach Jason Kreis thought he’d need to be successful. Kreis deployed a 4-4-2 formation with a diamond midfield to start the season. That’s not what James O’Connor wants to do. O’Connor wants to high press.

So, is another roster rebuild imminent? How long will that take? Club GM Niki Budalić said O’Connor 100 percent is the club’s leader moving forward, but O’Connor is going to need some time to fix this mess.

It’s no secret Orlando City needs to find someone who can help take some of the pressure off striker Dom Dwyer. He operates pretty much by himself these days, and forcing the ball to him hasn’t worked in weeks.

“We just haven’t been very dangerous,” midfielder Sacha Kljestan said after the match. “We lack maybe a little bit of personnel to help out Dom in the attacking areas and we haven’t been dangerous. We haven’t been putting teams on their heels or maybe playing more in behind to then create more space underneath. If we’re just continuing to play underneath, underneath, underneath it’s easy to defend. We’ve got to be a little more dynamic.”

A winger – particularly on the left side – would help, too. Orlando City tried to find a solution at left winger, and that didn’t work out.

The Lions’ roster has a few young players fans would like to see more of. Players like young designated player Josué Colmán and Pierre Da Silva have seen limited minutes this season. Da Silva is dealing with a knee injury that O’Connor said will keep him out for a “decent” amount of time. Holding midfielder Cam Lindley is still recovering from an infection.

How much will guys like that be involved in the remainder of the season? Has O’Connor seen enough of them to make decisions this offseason? Those questions have been put to O’Connor, and he’s responded with everyone is getting looks as he evaluates the team. 

Orlando City’s season is winding down and the Lions will, once again, enter the offseason surrounded by questions.

Another incomplete performance

If Orlando City and FC Dallas played for just one half on Saturday, O’Connor and his crew could walk away happy – if slightly disappointed – with a well-earned 0-0 draw.

The Lions went into the break tied with their hosts and created some good chances in the first half. FC Dallas goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez made some good saves to keep Orlando City off the board and left back Mohamed El-Munir hit the post.

Orlando City wilted in the second half.

“The mentality to continue to push in the second half and try to keep putting them on their heels just was not good enough,” Kljestan said.

“We’ve got to be stronger, mentally, in the second half of games.”

Shorthanded. Again.

Captain and centerback Jonathan Spector missed Saturday’s match after dealing with back tightness in the weeks leading up to the match. Midfielder Uri Rosell is recovering from an ankle injury. Players are about to leave for international duty. Striker Dom Dwyer is suspended for the team’s next match.

Injuries and international duty have been the go-to reasons from the team and from Orlando City’s front office when they’ve been asked what’s gone wrong with the Lions this year, and those two issues are showing up again with the season winding down.

Orlando City has struggled (understatement) to score recently, and the team’s leaders in goals and assists – Dwyer and Yotún, respectively – aren’t going to be available when the Lions play the New England Revolution on the road.

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