Orlando City is winless through three games after a 2-0 loss to NYCFC in Yankee Stadium. The Lions get an international break to right things and get more players healthy, then host the New York Red Bulls on March 31.
Here are three things we learned from Orlando City’s loss to the Pigeons:
Not time to hit the panic button… yet
Orlando City’s 0-2-1 start is concerning, but as anyone who watched this team last season can attest, it’s all about how the team finishes.
That said, one point through three games isn’t an ideal way to start the campaign, especially since all three matches were lost on goals that were practically gift-wrapped for opponents.
Still, there are 31 matches left. Lions coach Jason Kreis isn’t panicking yet, and so far, he’s more concerned with the points that have been dropped at Orlando City Stadium.
“Still early in the season,” Kreis said. “It’s the third game. Still really early.”
Players certainly aren’t panicking, but midfielders Will Johnson and Sacha Kljestan both said there’s pressure mounting.
“We wanted to come in here and get three points,” Johnson said. “We thought we had a game plan to do that.”
After talking about the excitement surrounding the return of some players, Johnson added, “The pressure’s on. Every game’s important. We’ve spotted the rest of the conference eight points and so there’s no more margin for error until we start to get some wins on the board.”
Kljestan agreed with Johnson.
“I don’t want us to panic,” he said. “We need to get Dom in there. The guy in the midfield we hope kind of runs things is Uri [Rosell]. When we can get them both back in, I think we’re going to be strong.
“I really believe in our team. We worked a lot in the preseason. We gained a lot of ground from where we started. We’re in a good spot right now. Standings-wise, it doesn’t look good, but no time to panic; it’s only been three games. We’ve got to get our full team back and I think we’re going to be a handful.”
If Orlando City can’t at least secure a point against the Red Bulls, the glass covering the panic button should be lifted. Kreis said he’s hoping to have a full complement of players. If the new Lions can’t draw with New York after an additional week to prepare and everyone healthy, it’ll be a bad look four matches into the season.
Orlando’s attack isn’t scaring anyone
Through three matches, the Lions have scored two goals — that’s second-to-last in the league in goals scored among teams that have played at last three matches.
One was off a penalty kick.
Stéfano Pinho, who is currently out with an ankle injury, has the club’s other goal, and that required a crazy run from center back Jonathan Spector. It was also in stoppage time during the first match of the season.
Orlando City brought in several players expected to bolster the team’s attack, and so far – mostly because those players have been absent – the attack hasn’t been much to write home about.
Of course, the expectation is that things will get better. It’s hard to believe forward Justin Meram will have another performance as lackluster as the one he had against NYCFC. His passing was off in the final third and he had a shot go wide that would have put the Lions up 1-0 in the second half.
Sacha Kljestan has played in one match. Midfielder Josué Colmán looked strong in the limited action he got against NYCFC. Striker Dom Dwyer isn’t back yet.
Orlando’s attack isn’t scary, but there’s room to grow.
For the team to improve, things might have to change. It’ll be interesting to see what formation Kreis puts on the pitch against the Red Bulls. Playing two up top hasn’t worked yet, and if Dwyer is healthy soon, then does Kreis pair him alongside a rookie in Chris Mueller and move Meram back, or keep playing Meram up top?
Mar 17, 2018; New York, NY, USA; Orlando City midfielder Cristian Higuita (7) kicks the ball as New York City defender Rodney Wallace (23) defends during the first half at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Colmán, Sané will be just fine in MLS
Colmán and Lamine Sané were the two bright spots for Orlando City at NYCFC, and both came on as substitutes. Sané has been in Orlando City’s 18 all season, but finally saw the pitch after team captain Jonathan Spector went down with a head injury.
Colmán’s journey on to the pitch has been a bit more complicated. He was injured early in preseason training and spent weeks training separately from the rest of the club. He only returned to full training in the week leading up to the match against NYCFC.
Both players made their MLS debuts and both acquitted themselves well, despite the loss.
“It was good to get Josué in there to get his first minutes,” Kljestan said. “I think he can be a key player for us this season. Obviously, we see he has talent, especially in tight spaces and 1-v-1 chances. The quicker we can get him up to speed, the better for him and ourselves.”