At this point I will be shocked if Orlando City manages to make the playoffs for 2015. It will take a confluence of circumstances nearly as improbable for Orlando City to reach the playoffs this year as it will take for UCF's football team to reach the college football playoffs in December of this year. In other words, dear readers, don't hold your breath.
Rafael Ramos made his return to the lineup for Orlando City yesterday only to be sent off with a red card in the 36th minute for what was deemed a reckless challenge. This put Orlando City down a man, and in the 82nd minute newcomer Adrian Winter was shown his second yellow after a questionable excursion by Tally Hall outside the area forced Winter into a hard foul trying to stop a scoring attempt in front of an empty Orlando City net. Orlando City played the final few minutes of the match down two men and the result was a forgettable 5 - 0 loss.
There's no question that Toronto was the better team on the day and deserved the win. Anyone who watched the match and came to a different conclusion must have been severely drunk at the time. But there is plenty to question about the team's lack of performance on the pitch in this match.
Speaking of performance, I have a pro tip for the media buyers on and program directors over at 104.1 when they broadcast Orlando City matches. Nutritional supplement vendor Midway Labs always runs ads during the post-match show that begin with the rhetorical question, "Ever wonder what Orlando City players do to achieve Lion results on the field?" And I always have to yell back at the radio, "Not enough!" So record a few different versions of the ad and then have the engineer at the station cue up the most appropriate one after the match depending on whether the team won, lost or drew.
But back to yesterday's match. The first question I have is whether Orlando City has simply thrown in the towel and has lost the will to win. I know the Starting XI that takes the pitch every week these days looks like a M.A.S.H. unit compared to the lineup we expected to be seeing in March, but most of them barely seem to be going through the motions out there. The team may be focused solely on team-based goals, but at this point in the season it's time to start rallying around some individual milestones that the club still has the chance to salvage. The most important of those at this point is Cyle Larin's probable MLS Rookie of the Year honors, which could be cemented if the other players on the pitch work to get him the ball when he's anywhere near the opposing team's area and if he'll just shoot the damn thing when it comes to him. He's sitting on a tie with the rookie scoring record now, and by adding one or two more goals he can set the new mark and help the club make a statement about their future plans to claim more hardware in the league.
I still care about the team and I'll still be there every week watching road matches on TV and attending home matches in person. But the continued backslide of the squad and their consistent failure to take any points from most matches they've played in the last eight weeks is making me a lot more eager for the start of tackle football season to see what second-year quarterback Blake Bortles can do with the Jaguars, what rookie Jameis Winston will be able to accomplish with the Bucs, and whether UCF can win a third conference championship in a row. If the Orlando City players can't show me they are going to put forth the effort to be competitive in matches they play for the rest of the season, then I'm not sure how many questions are left to be worth asking about this club between now and October.