Orlando City is the team for you if you’re into streaking. The Purple Lions won six in a row before going on a nine game losing run in which they gave up 27 goals. New head coach James O’Conner was brought in from perennial USL contenders Louisville City and led the team to its first points since May 6 last Saturday, a 2-1 victory over the husk of Toronto FC.
A retooled roster has not been the foundation for winning soccer Orlando hoped to create when they moved on from Kaka, even if it has been productive in attack. Dom Dwyer’s eight goals nearly equals his goals total from last season (9) in fewer than half the minutes played. Sacha Kljestan has only four assists, but his four goals is twice as many as 2017 and he already has as many shots on frame as last year, suggesting a modified role from the one he played in New York. Josue Colman, the 19 year old Paraguayan midfielder brought in to be an attacking centerpiece, has struggled to find his feet, while Justin Meram has had a similarly stop-and-start beginning to his Lions career.
The big issue for Orlando has been defense. Specifically, there has not been one. O’Conner shook things up last match by replacing Joe Bendik with Earl Edwards Jr. in goal, and while Orlando snuck away with a victory, they gave up a few shots in very kind positions in the second half.
In short, this is a front-heavy team adjusting to a new playing style under an exacting new coach. O’Conner is still trying to figure out how to fit all the pieces together in a way that facilitates success, but so far his solution has been to get Peruvian passing genius Yoshimar Yotun heavily involved in buildup play by dropping him deep and playing up the left to Kljestan. The former Red Bulls man has played on the outside of a front three but drops into the left channel whenever possible while rookie Chris Mueller provides width on the right. Yotun can make the tight vertical pass and the long diagonal, so shutting him down will be key on Wednesday when the Purple Lions come to Talen Energy Stadium at 7PM EST.