"...there was no joy in Mudville,
Mighty Casey had struck out."
-- Ernest Thayer
The classic poem about the sport of baseball could well apply to fans of Orlando City this morning. There's not much joy in Orlando as not only Kaka but Cyle Larin, Brek Shea, Rafael Ramos, Pedro Ribeiro, Carlos Rivas, Aurelien Collin, and everyone else we love to see putting the ball in the back of the net struck out in Montreal last night.
The Montreal Impact gained a much-needed win and elevated themselves into a 4-way tie for 5th place in the Eastern Conference, getting back above the line. Due to the play of other Eastern Conference teams, Orlando is still currently sitting in 3rd place, owing to Toronto FC's loss to our sister expansion side, NYCFC.
I'm tempted to do the verbal equivalent of LA Galaxy's clever "technical difficulties" highlight reel from a few weeks back, as there really were not many positives coming out of the night for Orlando City. From the start, it was clear that Montreal were playing better soccer on the night, and the best way to describe Orlando City's performance is "listless." In fact, during the match my twitter stream picked up "anemic," "lethargic," "exhausted," and "gassed."
Now if we had thrown the same Starting XI on the pitch against Montreal that played at Charleston on Wednesday night, it would be understandable that there was some exhaustion, but with all of our primary starters having had a rest for the US Open Cup match, the lackluster performance is a little baffling.
If you didn't watch the match, a look at the statistics tells a lot of the tale. Montreal had more of the stats you want, and Orlando City had more of the stats you'd rather not have. Montreal led in Corners (8 to 2), Duels Won (46 to 34), Tackles Won (20 to 17) and Shots on Goal (5 to 3). Meanwhile, Orlando City led in Offsides (3 to 1) and Fouls (13 to 6). Orlando City also led in possession (51.9% to 48.1%), but as a fan whose knowledge of the game is still growing, I'm skeptical at how valid this statistic is relevant to the outcome of a match. I wish the MLS web site would break down possession by thirds: perhaps possession advantage in the attacking third would be more meaningful, but a team could kick the ball around for 80 minutes in front of their own goal and have a huge possession advantage without it ever meaning anything.
The two players who seemed to suffer the worst performances of the night were a superstar and a journeyman. Kaka seemed mortal on the night, without showing much of the dazzling footwork or ankle-breaking moves we've become accustomed to seeing. It comes to mind that his last game or two out have also been a bit underwhelming by his standards, so you have to wonder if he's not playing with some sort of a little tweak or nagging ailment that's preventing him from being as explosive and thrilling on the pitch.
Another player who seemed to merely be occupying space on the pitch last night was Seb Hines, whose tripping over the ball in an attempted clearance in the dying moments of the match directly led to Montreal's second goal.
But you can't fault individual players for the results from the match last night: the loss was a total team effort. It seemed that Orlando City's players were always a step behind, a beat late, or a yard off from quality passes or strikes on the night.
Whatever the reasons for the poor performance, one hopes that the squad will not let the mad mojo clear Customs on the way back from Canada and can put this one behind them. They'll have a short preparation before looking to welcome Colorado into the Citrus Bowl on Wednesday. We will be there with our tailgate crew, continuing the "grill the competition" theme for this week.