High hopes from an off-season filled with frenetic activity in retooling the roster for Orlando City are quickly turning into deep concerns for a passionate fan base. On paper, the Purple Lions appear to be the deepest version of an Orlando City squad that the club has seen in the MLS era, and they are showing a lot of promise when analyzing statistical information from the matches. But all the stats in the world don't amount to a dirty litter box worth of anything if the scoreline doesn't result in three points. Through two matches, Orlando City finds themselves near the bottom of the table on a single point.
This week will mark the Lions' first road match of the season as they travel to the not-so-friendly confines of Yankee Stadium in the Bronx to take on NYCFC in a match of the 2015 expansion sides. What will Orlando City need to do to take their first 3-point result of the season? Only the gods of sport truly know, but I can give you my opinion based on the way the season has started in three quick points.
- Finish the Damned Chances - Orlando City has created more chances than last year in their first two matches of 2018, even with several projected starters out of the lineup due to injury or suspension. But most of those chances have resulted in shots going wide or bouncing off the woodwork around the goal if not being blocked or saved by opposing defenders and goalkeepers. Orlando City is going to have to keep the attacking pressure up and dial in some more quality to those final touches in order to put the ball into the net. Hopefully, the availability of Sacha Kljestan at the number 10 position will help now that he has served the two-match suspension he received from a scuffle with Toronto FC in last year's playoffs.
- Mark the Damned Opponents - Defending looked pretty good in the opener against DC United, but ghosts of 2017 seemed to inhabit the bodies of the defenders in the match against Minnesota United. Multiple attackers were left unmarked and wide open to pass and receive balls deep in the defensive end of the formation. This is not acceptable. I'm going to borrow a phrase from former UCF football coach George O'Leary and say that the Lions need more BOB (Body On a Body) defending. If you're assigned to a man and you can't reach out and grab his shirt, you are too far away.
- No More Damned Injuries - Stefano Pinho left the match in the first half on a stretcher and was seen on crutches later in the night. As of this writing (early Sunday afternoon), I have not seen a diagnosis yet, but I am sure that will be coming by Monday or Tuesday if not before. It looks like I'm going to have to update my season-long injury tracker again, and we'll just have to see how long Pinho may be sidelined. Dillon Powers, Uri Rosell, Josue Colman, and Dom Dwyer have all missed matches already due to injury or offseason fitness issues, and Pinho's injury is now going to start to really test the depth of the club at the pointy end of the formation.
Tomorrow on the blog we'll look at the Players to Watch for both NYCFC and OCSC in the upcoming match.
What are your thoughts on the upcoming match? What will Orlando City need to do to secure the win? Let me know in the comments below!