Editorial (December 13, 2018) — Ever since Orlando City SC has been in Major League Soccer, the team has failed to qualify for the MLS Cup playoffs.
Orlando has been in MLS for four seasons now. Last year, the Lions were only one spot above last place. Orlando City SC thought they couldn’t digress any worse than that. However, this season, the Lions finished in last place.
Season in Review: Lack of leadership hurt Orlando City SC
This year, Orlando City SC finished with a 8-22-4 record and 28 points. Throughout the whole league, Orlando City SC was only above the San Jose Earthquakes, who scored 21 points. While some teams compiled a winning streak, Orlando City SC gathered a nine-match losing streak from May 13 to July 7.
Orlando City SC also sacked their manager Jason Kreis, and two assistant coaches, on June 15. The Lions promoted Bobby Murphy to interim head coach. However, the role was filled on June 29, when the Lions hired James O’Connor.
Under O’Connor, Orlando City SC finished the season 2-12-3.
Team MVP: Dom Dwyer
Orlando City’s offense wasn’t horrendous this season.
Dom Dwyer was finding ways to put the ball in the back of the net, scoring 13 goals in 26 matches. However, Orlando City’s problem was the other team also finding ways to score. We’ll get to that in a minute.
Dwyer led the team in goals by a large margin. Up next on the list is Sacha Kljestan with six goals, with Dwyer more than doubling up on goals. Dwyer also largely led in shots, taking 78, with 36 registering on goal.
Dwyer was solid up top by himself. However, he failed to find much connection with other forwards like Chris Mueller, Stéfano Pinho and Jose Villarreal. If he wants to improve next season, Dwyer needs to be more vocal than ever before.
That brings us to what went wrong.
What Went Wrong: No Leadership
Kaká announced his retirement before the season began.
From that moment on, Orlando City SC lost its leadership. Jonathan Spector was given the captain’s armband, but his leadership wasn’t as vocal as his predecessor. Sacha Kljestan did as much as he could, for a first-year player for the Lions.
There wasn’t much accountability for the Lions, either.
No, it’s not entirely a goalkeeper’s fault when losses happen. Too many times, guys like Dwyer, Kljestan Justin Meram — who left the team in the middle of the season to go back to Columbus — and Yoshimar Yotún took shots, but didn’t register them on goal.
For Orlando City SC, taking shots is great, but having them on goal is even better.
What Went Right: A new head coach
O’Connor is in.
O’Connor had immense success with Louisville City FC in the USL. Louisville won the league title in 2017, beating out the Swope Park Rangers.
A former midfielder, O’Connor is a young coach, only at 39-years-old. He’ll bring a fresh approach to Orlando City SC. Right now, he’s already in control of the roster moves. Orlando City SC currently does not have a general manager, but O’Connor has been adding pieces left and right.
Recently, he traded for João Moutinho, a former first-overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft, and Tesho Akindele. In addition, Orlando City SC recently acquired a No. 3 overall pick in the upcoming MLS SuperDraft.
It’ll be interesting to see what O’Connor can do with a roster of his choice. Luckily, he had no players picked up in the FC Cincinnati MLS Expansion Draft.
What’s Next for Improvement?
First and foremost, there needs to be an established leader.
It can’t just be O’Connor and the person wearing the captain’s armband. Kljestan was a captain during his time in New York with the Red Bulls. Now, he needs to shoulder more of the leadership opportunities, should he remain with the team.
Orlando City SC should also look into a new goalkeeper.
Joe Benedik is not the goalkeeper of the future for Orlando City SC. Benedik is average at best, with his numbers in 2018 including 84 saves, but only one shutout. There’s a chance that Orlando City SC can take a goalkeeper with their SuperDraft selections, but normally drafted players go on loan to USL clubs.
Orlando City SC can also trade for a club’s backup goalkeeper. Clint Irwin, a former Toronto FC goalkeeper, is a current free agent.