Orlando City somehow may not be at rock bottom, but it’s hard to imagine the 2018 season getting much worse.
With Sunday’s late collapse against D.C. United, Orlando City has now won just one of their last 15 games. They’ve grabbed four of a possible 45 points. They’ve squandered all the momentum and goodwill that came with a six-game winning streak that made them look like an MLS Cup contender.
The Lions certainly aren’t an MLS Cup contender. They’re probably not even a playoff contender, even if they are still somewhat in the hunt. Somehow, some way, this season isn’t fully over, but regardless of what happens, some sort of change is needed going forward if Orlando is to take its place anywhere near the league’s top teams.
This was the year where things were supposed to be different for Orlando. After falling short of the postseason in each of its previous MLS seasons, this team was ready to contend. Sacha Kljestan and Uri Rossell were brought in to lead the midfield. Dom Dwyer was going to get comfortable. The defense was rebuilt and reshuffled into a group that should be somewhat solid.
None of that has truly happened. It’s not due to a lack of talent or a lack of ambition. Orlando has gone out and seemingly made all of the right moves, added many good pieces and put together a team with the ability to play good, playoff-level soccer. But, like each of the past seasons, it hasn’t happened.
It’s a recurring trend, even if the personnel has been completely turned over. Last season, the Lions had a run with just two wins in 20. In 2016, it was three wins in 21 matches while 2015’s mid-summer struggles brought what suddenly looks like the good ol’ days with a one-for-eleven streak. This happens every year, no matter the players or scenario, and that’s the big concern.
So how do you fix it? The idea was to bring in a new coach, as the club moved on from Jason Kreis at the first real sign of trouble this season. James O’Connor’s Lions have probably played better soccer this season but, each and every week, the team finds a way to capitulate.
At this point, its a mentality issue, and that mentality issue has reportedly led to boiled-over frustration and infighting. From day one, Orlando City has done everything right off the field, making big moves while building a beautiful stadium. It’s everything that’s happened between the lines that’s been worst of all, and that is taking its toll.
Fixing that isn’t something that will be done overnight. This team, as it stands, needs changes, big changes. With the transfer window over, Orlando heads into the last 10 games of the season as what they are, and there are no signs that will change any time soon. The Lions have a match against Atlanta United up next, and that match isn’t one for a team that can’t even accidentally find a win in a league defined by the unexpected.
You can’t expect Orlando to turn this around and you can’t expect this to be a quick fix. The team will need another rebuild and another overhaul. They have pieces in players like Dwyer, Kljestan, Yoshimar Yotun and rookie standout Chris Mueller, but it’s clear that there needs to be another reconstruction of a team that goes through this every year.
The Lions are a team that hasn’t found a way to get it right, and this recent run is just another example of a franchise that is still looking to get its act together.