Orlando City is proving me right by reverting to their bad habits as James O'Connor tries to get the team turned around. Unfortunately, I foresee this as an ongoing problem as long as the idiots in the front office insist that this roster is a roster that can win. This team does have some talented player. This team also has some very overrated players. And this team was assembled by fanboys who care more about having names on the roster that they like than having players on the roster that are focused and dedicated to following a coach's vision and playing as a cohesive unit.
The hapless Lions coughed up a hairball against NYCFC at home on Thursday night, and I am not encouraged that they are going to do much better on the road for a late night Sunday matchup on the West Coast. I saw some fans who have clearly lost their short-term memories waxing poetic about the fight that Orlando City showed on Thursday night. I simply saw more of the same pathetic nonsense that marked the first few matches of the long losing streak.
- Phantom Offense: If you are shallow enough to only care about headline stats, then Orlando City looked pretty good on Thursday night. They led NYCFC in shots (21-14), Corners (13-3), and Crosses (28-13). They were also close on possession, with NYCFC holding a 50.4% - 49.6% edge, which is negligible.
- Tentative Finishing: When these players get near the goal, they are like the high school nerd that lands a Homecoming date with the captain of the Cheerleading squad--they get severe performance anxiety. I swear there were stretches in the game on Thursday when Orlando City held the ball in the attacking half for three or four minutes without NYCFC ever touching it except to knock it out for another Lions corner kick. But City showed no urgency and they would pass up opening after opening to shoot at goal in favor of passing off to another teammate.
- Lack of Hustle: Watch the "heart and hustle" stats in every match. They often will tell you who wins, but they will always tell you the team that is giving more effort on the pitch. On Thursday night NYCFC won two-thirds of the "heart and hustle" stats. The visitors led in Tackles Won (17-14) and Clearances (35-13). The only stat in this category that Orlando City won was Duels Won (47-44).
- Stupid Penalties: Late in the first half Dom Dwyer picked up a needless penalty when he spent nearly a minute refusing to acknowledge instructions from the referee. I think every fan in MLS (and probably every coach and player) can find reasons to be frustrated at the refs, but players have to rise above that. I am convinced that if Dwyer had simply accepted the lecture from the ref (deserved or not) and then got back on with the game, the card would have stayed in the pocket. Pro tip to players: Let the fans gripe at the refs. Let the pundits rake the refs over the coals. You just get on with the damned game and don't argue the calls. That's the same kind of stupid as refusing to obey a police officer that has a drawn firearm, regardless of whether you've done anything to deserve being considered a threat to their safety.
We have seen this kind of nonsense from these players earlier in the season. We need to see consistent improvement and persistent evidence that the team is learning to put their bad habits behind them for good. I'm not sure these players are capable of following the plan and the pace of play that James O'Connor is trying to set for them, and until the Front Office shows they are serious about assembling a roster that is capable of playing as a unit and following the instructions of a coach, we may have to endure more of this nonsense from this bunch of lovable misfits.
In the last five matches, the LA Galaxy has scored 14 goals and Orlando City has surrendered 14 goals. On the other side of the ledger, Orlando City has scored five goals and the LA Galaxy has allowed seven goals in the same period. Considering the current run of form for both teams, I predict that the Galaxy will take the home win by a 3 - 1 margin tonight. I hope I am wrong, but the way the team played on Thursday night doesn't give me any confidence that we will see anything better from Orlando City this match.