Orlando City has played nine matches, completing a quarter of the MLS season. This marks a good time to take a look at the performance of the team and look at some of the statistical leaders at this point in the season.
Through nine matches, Orlando City SC has a record of 6 - 2 - 1 and has 19 points, putting them in third place on the Eastern Conference table. Currently, Orlando City has a goal differential of +5 (GF 19, GA 14).
In 2017, after nine matches Orlando City SC had a record of 6 - 3 - 0 and 18 points, with a goal differential of 0 (GF 11, GA 11).
Last year Orlando City started strong but then collapsed in May and never found their form again for the rest of the long season. This year, Orlando City started slowly in their first three matches, but then they hit their stride and they have gone on an impressive run of six straight victories, the longest of any team (so far) in 2018. They have a chance to make it seven straight on Sunday against Atlanta United FC, who lead the Eastern Conference table.
There is more than rivalry on the line Sunday. With Atlanta on 22 points and Orlando City on 19 points, a win for the home side would mean that Orlando City could vault to first place in the East, with the head-to-head victory over Atlanta United. It would also put Orlando City into a tie for the Supporters Shield.
Individual Stat Leaders
Orlando City has enjoyed success in 2018 because they are getting contributions from all over the roster. It's interesting to note that statistical leaders for the team include both returning players from 2017 and players who are new to the roster. These stats include only players who have appeared in five or more matches so far.
- Goals - Dom Dwyer (6)
- Assists - Yoshimar Yotun (4)
- Shots - Justin Meram (26)
- Key Passes - Sacha Kljestan and Yoshimar Yotun (19 each)
- Duels Won - Mohamed El-Munir (30)
That Dom Dwyer is leading the team in scoring is no surprise. And seeing Sacha Kljestan and Justin Meram among the active leaders in offensive stats is also not a stretch. But it's pretty cool to see how other midfield and even defensive players like Yotun and El-Munir are contributing to the offense. Those duels that El-Munir is winning are helping to start build-ups that may result in a chance to shoot the ball. And the fact that both Yotun and Kljestan are so active in getting the ball to the feet of someone that's going to shoot means the whole team isn't just sitting around waiting for one player to create everything.
- Passes - Yoshimar Yotun (583 or 64.8 / match)
- Pass Completion Rate - Lamine Sane (87.3%)
- Dribbles - Mohamed El-Munir (29)
- Crosses - Sacha Kljestan (1 / match)
- Long Balls - Yoshimar Yotun (7.2 / match)
- Through Balls - Justin Meram (0.2 / match)
Being active on the offense, it's probably not surprising to see Yotun, Kljestan, and Meram on the list of players helping the team to win the possession battle. According to whoscored.com, Orlando City is averaging 52.2% possession and has a team passing accuracy rate of 80%.
Based on some of my criticism of our new center back's play, I am a bit surprised (happily so) to see that the passing leader is Sane. I think if you had asked me before the season I would have probably said I would have expected a very high level of play from him--it's just that I would not have expected the lapses I have seen that have contributed to or directly allowed goals to be scored against us. My encouragement to the player would be to keep up what he's doing well in the passing department, but just be a bit more attentive to the man he's assigned to mark and don't watch where the ball is going so much. Just be sure your man doesn't have a chance to get the ball and do anything with it.
- Tackles - Mohamed El-Munir (50)
- Interceptions - Mohamed El-Munir (32)
- Clearances - Amro Tarek (33)
- Blocked Shots - Amro Tarek (7)
- Blocked Crosses - Mohamed El-Munir (4)
- Blocked Passes - Yoshimar Yotun (11)
I don't think these defensive leaders come as a surprise to anyone who has watched the start of Orlando City's season. From the very first game, El-Munir has wowed fans with his ability to recover and close on attackers and his deft footwork to tackle the ball away from opponents. And Amro Tarek doesn't mess around when he gets anywhere near the ball deep in the defensive end. He'll throw any part of his body he can legally throw in the path of a shot and then boot the ball back out of the penalty area so the opposing team doesn't have a second-chance opportunity to shoot at the goal. And if I'm honest, it's not much of a surprise to me to see the speedy Yotun leading the way in blocking passes.
Team MVP at the Quarter
I've been asked recently who I would call for as MVP of the team so far, and I said Mohamed El-Munir, just based on the eye test. After crunching these numbers and researching the statistics, I feel even more strongly that El-Munir should be considered MVP.
Remember in 2017 how Orlando City's defense just coughed up the ball in dangerous situations match after match and finished the year with a -19 goal differential. El-Munir has been perhaps the most visible (for the dramatic plays he makes) example of how the defense has improved in 2018. The winning streak is not just a testament to the fact that Orlando City is scoring goals at a better clip than they did last season, but it also shows that we are better at preventing opponents from scoring as many goals as they did a season ago. El-Munir has had a huge hand (or foot, I should say) in that, from his dogged determination to dig the ball away from opponents by keeping them glued to the sidelines when they get deep in the attacking end, to chasing down speedy strikers to deliver a heartbreaking toe-poke to send the ball out of reach before they can shoot. I will never diminish the importance of having a Dom Dwyer and Chris Mueller who can light up a scoreboard, but I love watching the efforts of players that frustrate our opponents' attempts to score as well.
Who is your MVP of the Orlando City season so far? Are there any of the statistical leaders at this point who surprise you? Who are the players on the team that you would have expected to see making more of a contribution that hasn't seemed to get it going yet? Let me know in the comments below!