The MLS season starts for Orlando City on Saturday evening, March 3, as the Lions host DC United. OCSC is coming off a season which saw them finish 10th of 11 teams in the Eastern Conference table in 2017. The only team in the East to be worse than OCSC last season was DC United, who finished with 32 points compared to the Lions' 39 point total.
But Orlando City made sweeping roster changes since the final match of last year. Gone are both 2015 MLS Rookie of the year Cyle Larin and superstar captain Kaka. Many more familiar names and faces are gone from the club, including midfielder Servando Carrasco, striker Carlos Rivas, and only last Saturday, defender Jose Aja. In their place are a mix of veteran leaders and dynamic young players: Josue Colman, Sacha Kljestan, and Cam Lindley among them.
Today we'll try to answer the question: What do the new-look Lions need to do to take the victory and it's sweet three points on Saturday?
- Play As a Unit: Despite the relative stability of personnel from 2016 - 17, it was clear that last season, OCSC was less a team and more like eleven players out there each doing their own thing. The team rallied early in the season when Kaka went down, and for the first two months of the season, they played their most organized football of the year. But when the Captain returned from the first of several injuries that marred his final season in purple, the team seemed to fall apart and never found a consistent winning form again.
- Trust their Teammates: Soccer matches can't be one by a single brilliant attacker taking on eleven opponents. All the Lions on the pitch need to be attentive to the situation and contributing to the effort--in the attack, in the defense, in transition, and on set pieces. They also have to have a sixth sense of where their teammates are and where they are going so that those efforts don't result in disarray and chaos. If everyone's trying 11 different things at the same time, the result is not going to be pretty.
- Attack for 90 Minutes: I'll admit this is probably less important than the other two factors, but it was a personal pet peeve of mine for most of last year. With the exception of the infamous game against Chicago when OCSC felt the Wrath of Unkel and suffered two red cards, there was not another match in which I was satisfied with the team simply trying to prevent the opponent from scoring. And I will also admit I got a bit spoiled by my alma mater's college football team becoming the highest scoring offense in the nation and being the only undefeated team in the country. I hope a little of that McKenzie Milton and Shaquem Griffin mojo or pixie dust from the East Side of town has been absorbed into this Orlando City team. Scoring more goals than any other team in the league would be a great way to show this team is improving.
Tomorrow, look for my Players to Watch in this weekend's matchup.
What do you think Orlando City will need to do to win the season opener on March 3? Let me know in the comments below!