Orlando City lost its seventh-consecutive MLS match on Saturday, falling 2-0 to the Montreal Impact in Orlando City Stadium. It was the Lions’ (6-9-1, 19 points) first home match in nearly a month. Here are three takeaways from the match:
Road trip took a lot out of Orlando City
There are two ways Orlando City’s recent five-match road trip took a lot out of the Lions.
The first is obvious: Orlando City was tired coming into Saturday’s match. That fatigue led to a lack of effort and a lackadaisical performance in front of an announced crowd of 23,498.
Outside of some bursts of energy from captain Jonathan Spector, Orlando City’s back line looked gassed to start the match. The attack wasn’t much better. Until rookie Chris Mueller took the pitch, just about all of Orlando City’s possession was in front of a compact Montreal side.
It makes sense. A good chunk of the team played 120 minutes on Wednesday in the rain against D.C. United. Judging by interim coach Bobby Murphy’s post-match press conference, some players told him they were good to go and he believed them.
“So much of what I went on was people’s word,” Murphy said. “There’s the empirical data of how much ground they covered and this, that and the other. The other is requiring their honesty in saying, ‘Yes I can do this,’ right? And if someone said that and we had discussions, discussions as late as 11 o’clock this morning, on those things, nothing was set in stone, trying to get people as much time as possible. That went into the selection.
“You look at the energy in the first half on Wednesday night versus the first half tonight – running around is a choice. It’s as simple as that. Either you choose to run or you choose not to run. Sacha Kljestan, 32 years old, ran 17k on Wednesday night, and probably ran another 10k tonight. It’s a choice.”
So it sounds like certain players vastly overestimated their ability log a full 90 after Wednesday’s match.
The second way the five-game road trip took a toll was the blow to Orlando City’s optimism as a squad. This isn’t a confident bunch right now. Spector said so himself.
“We need to come together as a team and we need to find our confidence back, because it doesn’t seem like we have that at the moment,” he said. “We need to find a way to get our confidence and build on some of the good performances that we had earlier in the season.”
Open Cup success not translating
No one seems to know why the Lions’ U.S. Open Cup wins haven’t translated to better MLS play.
Part of it is the U.S. Open Cup is just a different competition. Orlando City won its first Open Cup match by beating an NPSL side 3-0. It would have been embarrassing if the Lions lost. Against D.C. United, they worked for a victory on penalty kicks, but most of the same issues that have been plaguing the Lions all season reared their heads at the Maryland SoccerPlex.
The Lions conceded the first goal and didn’t take advantage of chances they created.
“If I knew, then we wouldn’t have lost,” Murphy said when asked why Open Cup wins aren’t translating into MLS success.
After weighing his words for a while, Murphy added, “I don’t think there’s an easy answer to it. I think the Cup games provide a different bit of energy but it doesn’t matter.”
At the end of the day, Saturday’s loss, coupled with a win for the Philadelphia Union and a draw for the Chicago Fire, means Orlando City has fallen out of the playoff picture.
Prior to Saturday, Orlando City could at least hold on to the knowledge they were above the red line, even if the results weren’t coming.
That’s no longer the case. The Lions are two points below sixth-place Philadelphia and a point below the Fire. A loss to Atlanta United next week would mean a drop to ninth place if Montreal finds a result against Sporting KC.
Of course, a win next week could instantly vault the Lions back above the playoff line.
There’s still a lot of soccer left for Orlando City. The Lions are 16 games in, so they’re not even at the midway point of their season. But the club is going to run out of time to turn things around. And it’s tough to just rattle off consecutive wins after seven consecutive losses.
“We need to do whatever it takes to either get back in the playoffs or stay in the playoffs,” Spector said. “We’re not in a bad position yet. Obviously, the run of form has been really, really poor but we’re not in a terrible position.”