Last year, Orlando City SC finished 10th in the Eastern Conference, exactly where the Colorado Rapids finished in the Western Conference. While the Florida club didn’t make quite as many changes in the off-season as the Rapids did, there are a few new faces on the pitch this year (Rapids fans will recognize the former Sporting Kansas City forward Dom Dwyer) and OCSC is off to a solid start. We talked to Logan Oliver at The Mane Land to find out what to expect, and answered a few of their questions about the 2018 Burgundy Boys. (You can read their Intelligence Report on the Rapids here.)
Burgundy Wave: Orlando finished close to the bottom of the table last year, but has seemed to turn things around and are doing very well this season. Do you attribute that to the addition of several new players in the offseason (like Dom Dwyer, Justin Meram, Sacha Kljestan, etc.) or something else?
The Mane Land: The improved individual quality of players is definitely a huge boost from Orlando City teams of years past, but having a roster of players with skill sets that mesh well has also been a huge step forward from 2017. Players like Dom Dwyer, Sacha Kljestan, Mohamed El-Munir, and Lamine Sané have brought a ton of ability the Lions’ starting lineup. There’s also something to be said that Justin Meram, Oriol Rosell, and new Designated Player Josué Colmán are having trouble seeing too many minutes regularly because of the performances of other players.
The 2018 version of Orlando City is deep and talented and the ceiling is high for the individuals on the roster.
BW: OCSC has been scoring a lot of goals, but also leaking goals. Is this because they’re focusing more on the attack or is there room for improvement in the backline?
TML: There’s definitely room for improvement on defense, primarily when it comes to defending set pieces. The last few matches Orlando has been missing starting right back Scott Sutter, backup right back RJ Allen, as well as captain Jonathan Spector, which has caused some trouble. But from the run of play the new center backs have been steady, they just leave a lot to be desired in the air so far.
Having rookie Cam Lindley as the starting defensive midfielder meant some bad turnovers but veteran Cristian Higuita has been superb in his return to the starting lineup.
BW: Is this seen as a rebuilding year or is OCSC going for the Supporters’ Shield? How much weight does Jason Kreis and company give a game at altitude against a non-conference team?
TML: The Orlando City faithful won’t settle for a rebuilding year at this point. While Supporters’ Shield is unlikely with the squad still jelling, early returns look like playoffs could be a real possibility. It’s definitely postseason or bust for OCSC this season.
Because of that, the Lions are taking every game seriously in a loaded Eastern Conference because every point will matter at the end of the year. Expect a strong lineup looking to take as many points as possible this weekend.