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Orlando City trying to avoid summer slump, improve performances at home

Orlando City (3-4-3, 12 points) fell 2-0 to Toronto FC (5-2-1, 16 points) Saturday, opening the month of May with a loss. Here are three takeaways from the match.

Orlando City SC defender Ruan (2) dribbles the ball as Toronto FC defender Justin Morrow (2) defends during the first half at Orlando City Stadium. (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

ORLANDO, Fla. — Orlando City (3-4-3, 12 points) fell 2-0 to Toronto FC (5-2-1, 16 points) Saturday, opening the month of May with a loss. Here are three takeaways from the match: 

The May question

Orlando City coach James O’Connor is looking for a solution to an issue that has plagued Orlando City since the club joined MLS in 2015.

The Lions have gone 4-10-8 during 22 league matches played in May since 2015. Orlando City has never won multiple matches in the month of May as an MLS club.

So, this issue, whether anyone wants to discuss it or not, is part of the culture O’Connor wants to change.

“For me, when you look the performance, you have to come away and ask yourself, ‘Well, why?’” O’Connor said after his team lacked energy during the second half of a 2-0 loss to Toronto FC Saturday.

“You have to try to figure why. Why did we get sort of contrast between the first and the second half? Whether that’s, as I say, too much exposure to the sun, whether it’s training, whether it’s a mentality thing and everybody just needs to get their head down and push through and demand more from each other, these are questions that we’re going to have to try to get answers for.”

Jason Kreis and Adrian Heath couldn’t figure it out. O’Connor has to if he wants the Lions to be successful. More than half the season will be left after May is over, but things don’t usually get much easier for the Lions during June, July and August. Figuring out the solution to the summer slump early could be massive for Orlando City.

City’s next matches are against Atlanta United (away), the Seattle Sounders (away and on short rest), FC Cincinnati (home) and the LA Galaxy (home). If the Lions hold true to past Mays and get just one win, that’s a potential three points out of 15 available.

That won’t be good enough to keep Orlando City in the playoff hunt near the midway point of the season.

Home woes

Orlando City has struggled at home so far this season.

The Lions have gone down 2-0 during four of six home matches this season and have fallen behind at home five times in 2019. Orlando City has scored the first goal in Orlando City Stadium once this season – during the team’s 1-0 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps.

The Wall continues to create one of the best atmospheres in MLS. The actual crowds are noticeably smaller than the announced attendance – tickets distributed – but the fan support is still there.

Players are disappointed with how things have gone at home. Centerback Lamine Sané said grinding out a point on the road against NYCFC means nothing if the team can’t take care of business in Orlando City Stadium.

Centerback Robin Jansson added, “It’s disappointing because when we have such great fans here at the stadium, we want to give something back. But this feels sad to not give anything back. It’s hard to lose this way.” 

The Lions are 2-3-1 at home so far this season. If just one of those losses was a victory, Orlando City would be on 15 points and in fifth place in the Eastern Conference. Instead Orlando City is in seventh place and just one point ahead of the New York Red Bulls, who have a game in hand.

The subs

O’Connor’s substitutions have effectively turned the tide in most of Orlando City’s previous matches this season. Saturday’s substitutions didn’t make much of an impact.

Sacha Kljestan, Chris Mueller and Josué Colmán came on in the second half in place of Will Johnson – arguably one of Orlando City’s best players against Toronto FC – Uri Rosell and Tesho Akindele, respectively.

The three subs combined for one chance created and two shots, neither of which was on target. Kljestan was on the pitch for the longest of the subs and he had 21 touches.

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