ORLANDO, Fla. — Orlando City goalkeeper Joe Bendik still remembers when the Lions’ season turned in 2017.
After a hot start, Orlando City finished the year with the worst MLS record in club history. Things turned once the calendar flipped to May – much like this season – and the team never recovered.
The Lions (6-9-1, 19 points) are looking to recover before this season gets away from them.
Orlando City fell out of the playoff picture after losing to the Montreal Impact, the club’s seventh consecutive loss in league play. A win from the Philadelphia Union and a draw from the Chicago Fire meant a drop to eighth place for Orlando City, two spots below the playoff line.
“These times are tough,” Bendik said. “We need to dig in, roll our sleeves up and get ourselves out of it. We’re the ones who put ourselves there so we’re the ones who can get ourselves out.
“Last year, you know, it wasn’t as bad, but after that start of the season, we struggled through a very similar patch of the year. I don’t think we won a game in May. You need to learn from that and, like I said, get yourselves out of it.”
Plus, Orlando City is in the middle of a search for its next head coach. Club CEO Alex Leitão on Saturday said he still expects to name a new head coach this week.
“That adds a little bit of a distraction, but no matter who the coach is, it’s still on us as players to give everything that we have, especially right now,” Bendik said.
“We need to dig in and roll our sleeves up and get to work. We need to really realize what’s going on here. We need to find a way to win, no matter what it takes.”
An Orlando City loss or draw coupled with an Impact win over the San Jose Earthquakes would mean a drop to ninth.
Of course, a win over rival Atlanta United could me a jump back into the playoff picture, provided Philadelphia and Chicago both stumble in their respective matches.
In fact, striker Dom Dwyer was asked after training on Tuesday if he thinks Orlando City’s season is still salvageable.
“What would you say?” he asked. “Have you looked at the table?”
He added, “I wouldn’t say it’s over by any means. If we’ve got our own people writing us off like that, then it’s interesting. I wouldn’t say we’re a club like that right now. We have a lot of belief in ourselves and belief that we can turn things around very quickly.”
A win is what this club needs to turn things around, said interim coach Bobby Murphy.
“That usually turns a losing streak around,” he said with a quick laugh.
“It’s just going to take a complete performance. So often, we’ve been so close. It’s going to take everybody playing to their best and playing for the group and getting a break here or there and it can all turn around. That’s what we’re working toward.”
A win in league play could be hard to come by in the near future. The Lions get Atlanta United on the road this weekend. That match is followed by LAFC in Los Angeles, Toronto at home, the Columbus Crew in Columbus and a home date with NYCFC.
In that stretch of MLS matches, only Toronto is lower than fourth in its conference.
Squeezed between the Reds and the Crew is a match against the Philadelphia Union in Open Cup play.
Of course, Orlando City is only focused on this week’s match against Atlanta United in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“I see it as a huge challenge and a great opportunity to go up there in front of a hostile crowd, a place where we did well last year in that stadium,” Murphy said. “Hopefully, the players will take it as a great opportunity and play with a bit of freedom knowing that nothing’s really expect of them, to go in there and get a result, and sometimes you can surprise people when that happens.”