I've been trying to find any way possible to feel better about this three-match losing streak that Orlando City finds itself in, and I really can't. Watching this team squander chance after chance and find ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory is simply nauseating.
Last night's match was a perfect example of everything that is wrong about this team. If you take away the score line and you look at the headline stats, this team sounds impressive. Here are some numbers to consider from the match against Chicago Fire.
Stats Orlando City Won
- Shots 21 - 10
- Shots on Target 6 to 4
- Corners 8 to 3
- Total Passes 511 to 342
- Passing Accuracy 90% to 82%
- Possession 60.1% to 39.9%
- Duels Won 60 to 52
In fact, for well over 60 of the 90 minutes of the match, Orlando City seemed to be the only team attacking. While Orlando City's possession numbers look impressive, breaking those down to possession in the final third is staggering. For emphasis, I've included a heatmap from the excellent whoscored.com site with some emphasis added in the form of yellow boxes around the goal each team is attacking.
A heat map notes the average position of players throughout the 90 minutes. Dark areas are "cold" indicating where the players are not spending much time. Blue indicates a cool presence, and other colors indicate a more active presence, with red showing the highest concentration of player presence for each team.
Looking at the map on the left, for Orlando City, we can see that the largest concentration of red is in the attacking half of the pitch, and that there is a significant amount of presence inside the yellow box, indicating that there was a lot of activity by Orlando City in the Chicago penalty area during the match. By contrast on the right, Chicago was essentially nonexistent in the box in front of Joe Bendik's goal for the 90 minutes, and they had almost no play across the midfield stripe in the center of the pitch, instead simply pushing up the edges, and hardly at all as high as the penalty box. And the biggest concentration of red for the Chicago Fire is literally right in front of their own goal--showing the desperate effort they were throwing into defending the repeated attacks by Orlando City.
What Went Wrong
So what is the glaring problem? How could Orlando City lose a match when the stats look this dominant? The coach will give his excuses and the players will give their excuses, and whining fans that like to bitch about the referees will give their excuses. But the real culprit, in my opinion, is that Orlando City's ability to finish is just not good enough.
A clue to this is looking at the few significant stats that Chicago did win on the night, which are all defensive in nature. The visitors won the following statistical categories:
- Blocked Shots: 4 to 3
- Tackles Won: 16 to 13
- Saves: 5 to 2
- Clearances: 22 to 4
What I don't see from Orlando City is enough individual assertiveness. There's a fine line between selfishness and assertiveness, but the difference is huge. While selfishness can be destructive and detrimental to the locker room, assertiveness can be a tremendous boon for results on the pitch.
You see evidence of this lack of assertiveness in the pace of play Orlando City adopts. They are like a basketball team that runs a half-court offense in that they will rush the ball across the midfield line, but then they are content to kick it around and pass it between players umpteen times before they ever try for a shot. And then when they do try a shot they always miss the opportune moment, as though they are waiting for the perfect opportunity.
If you sit in the stands or watch a road match from a bar, the entire fan base will be screaming at the players, "shoot! shoot! shoot!" when they get into the box. But the players seem to wait too long--they either miss the opening that we all see and shoot late so that the defense blocks the shot, or they try one more ill-advised pass that gets intercepted and the entire chance is squandered without an attempt being made.
This team needs a player that has the ego (and a small measure of the skill) of a Ronaldo. if Cyle Larin had ever learned to dribble and run with the ball on his feet, he might have become that player. He certainly had the assertiveness, but his skill set is so limited he needs teammates to create the opportunities for him. MLS is not a league that has an abundance of great set-up artists that are happy to be the player that gives the assist to a teammate. The irony is that it seems like everyone on this year's Orlando City roster wants to be the guy that helps his teammate score, and most of them seem embarrassed to try to hog the glory for themselves.
Right now, this team is just not good enough to win games consistently, and the result they received last night is the one they earned and the one they deserved. Until this team can learn how to finish chances as competently as they can create those opportunities, Orlando City fans will have many more long months and possibly long years of watching what is rapidly turning into the 1909 - 2015 Chicago Cubs of the MLS.