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Orlando City enjoys record win streak, but tough tests loom

Orlando City's Yoshimar Yotun, right, gets hug from teammate Dom Dwyer (14) after scoring a goal against Real Salt Lake during the second half of an MLS soccer match, Sunday, May 6, 2018, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Orlando City set a club record with its sixth consecutive victory on Sunday, a 3-1 win over Real Salt Lake. Here are three things were learned from the match: 

Big tests incoming

Orlando City won its sixth match in a row on Sunday. That’s no small feat and it’s an accomplishment worthy of celebration.

It’s also not going to be enough to put the Lions in the playoffs, because it’s only May. It’s too early in the season to think about the postseason and coach Jason Kreis knows it.

“I don’t know that winning streaks are going to send messages,” Kreis said. “I don’t know about that. I think that the performance sends messages on an individual match-by-match basis.

“As I said, I think that the six games that we’ve won are fantastic, but the truth of the matter is I think we can do more. We can be better. We should be looking to improve.”

Orlando City’s next four matches are against Atlanta United, Toronto FC, the Chicago Fire and NYCFC. Things are about to get brutal from a matchup standpoint.

Throughout this win streak, the message has been about staying humble. Being in third place in the Eastern Conference table is great in May, but it’ll be a lot sweeter in September.

Not everyone believes the Lions are for real yet. The next four matches – particularly against the Five Stripes and against Toronto at BMO Field – will give Orlando City the chance to silence all doubters.

“It’s about not becoming complacent at all,” Kreis said. “It’s about trying to improve week by week. It’s also about staying hungry, because the truth of the matter is we’ve won six games in a row, but we haven’t won anything at all.”

Orlando City’s depth is real … but there’s catch

Anyone else know when was the last time Chris Schuler played a full 90 minutes? May 31, 2017, in Real Salt Lake’s 5-1 loss to the Houston Dynamo.

That’s almost a full calendar year ago.

Schuler acquitted himself well against Real Salt Lake. He had two tackles (both around the penalty area), two interceptions and four clearances. Kreis said the veteran centerback’s performances wasn’t perfect – and it wasn’t – but it showed Orlando City still has players who can step up and get the job done when a start goes down.

Here’s the issue: Amro Tarek’s “lower-body injury” is just the latest in a string of injuries for Orlando City. Depth is not an infinite resource. Eventually, if this keeps up, it’ll become an issue.

Who would step up if another center back goes down? RJ Allen? He’s the club’s backup right back with Scott Sutter still out and Will Johnson – usually a midfielder – playing on the back line.

Kreis done a solid job this season putting players in positions to be successful. That’s likely to continue. But no team can withstand repeated injuries to top players.

Orlando City’s defense is still vulnerable

There’s no reason to sugarcoat it – things could have been much worse for the Lions on Sunday. Real Salt Lake had two shots go off the post Sunday evening and Joe Bendik came up with eight saves, including on Corey Baird in the 62nd minute that’s a likely candidate for Save of the Week.

Some of that can be chalked up to the revolving door that has become the center back position. Some of it is just how the Lions have played all season – it’s no secret Orlando City is vulnerable on the counterattack.

Too often, opponents play the ball right up the middle of the pitch and a centerback is caught having to turn and catch up with an attacker. The post and Bendik have bailed out the Lions a few times this season, but that likely won’t be acceptable for much longer.

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