Usually I do a sarcastic lede and talk about the last game, but I have a lot of really self-important, indulgent things to subject you to today so let’s get on with it.
Here’s the Prekrap...
I know when he’s been on your mind, that distant look is in your eyes
So far 2018 has been a disaster for Orlando City. They are 8th in the table riding a 7 game losing streak in MLS. O-Town fired their coach who, after losing his 5th game in a row, said that he would have to tell the players to play better, or something to that effect. Incredible, incredible leadership from the future Minnesota United manager - I don’t know how they didn’t see his vision for the club.
On top of that, several of their offseason acquisitions have been complete failures. After one time legend, part time MLS player, and full time salary anchor Kaka retired, the team brought in Sacha Kljestan. His addition to Orlando filled the vital role of ‘old player who probably isn’t that useful anymore’ by replacing an often injured but somewhat effective virtuoso with one who is somewhat ineffective but healthy. It turns out he isn’t going to get 20 (hockey) assists a season unless he has one of the best strikers in the league in front of him - and that ain’t Dom Dwyer. Much to my delight, Sacha still insists on taking penalties despite them looking like, well... this:
If you read his lips there you can almost make out that he says “JORTS” in honor of Orlando’s favorite lower body attire and and homage to the Insane Clown Posse.
As for a player people actually like, one of Jason Kreis’ most monumental achievements was turning Justin Meram from a player who scored 13 goals last season into one that is on track to score two this year.
Elsewhere on the field, NASL standout Stefano Pinho is showing that he’s every bit the player that led a league in scoring last season that was so filled with talent that it folded.
Remeber Oriol Rosell? No. That’s ok! He’s only started in 6 games and has 4 yellow cards.
Then there’s Dom Dwyer who has seven goals. That sounds good, but only one has come in the five games he’s appeared in over their seven game losing streak. He’s been worth every penny and their striker suddenly going on a goal drought probably in no way is directly responsible for their coach being fired if you were to just pin it on the player who has the most important job on the field when it comes to scoring goals. No way.
Then there’s the entire re-vamped backline which has let in 33 goals in 16 games. A marvelous tally.
More impressively, their new manager Bobby Murphy has the team playing a 3-4-3. Do they have the players to line up in a 3-4-3? No. Are they going to beat anyone 5-4? Probably not with a backline that’s letting in two goals a game and has no defensive discipline and a striker who can’t score. I’d like to congratulate Bobby into being so terrible that Orlando tried to panic hire Caleb Porter. The former Timbers manager turned them down, so Orlando is even a failure at attracting overrated failures to lead their team.
There has been one good player for the team and he’s probably not playing on Saturday. Yoshi Yotun is just returning from Russia from his time with Peru where I am sure he was not hoping and praying that a scout from Turkey noticed him to give him a lifeline out of a club that has been since joining MLS a complete and total disaster.
OK, let’s hit reset - that was fun right? This is going to be a weird article. There’s no serious way to analyze Orlando City - the team is a joke, it’s poorly run, their best player abandoned them before the season, and the fans are hilarious caricatures of extras from Sons of Anarchy who all think they’re the Punisher - there’s an encyclopedia about how awful Orlando is. We’re lucky to have them as a rival. Even if they aren’t our rivals - usually a rivalry includes both sides winning sometimes - they are the most hilarious attempt that North America has at running a soccer club - and our league has the Colorado Rapids in it. It’s about to get serious though, I’m going to do a real journalism, so let’s listen to some of the most serious - best music that Orlando has ever produced and get in the right frame of mind for Atlanta United’s section of the preview. I present to you O-Town - Liquid Dreams:
It’s OK Atlanta
Atlanta United will need to rebound and get back to winning at home. This isn’t quite a crisis and the schedule is about to lighten up quite a bit for the Five Stripes, but dropping points at home is a bad strategy. This season seems to have brought up some questions about Atlanta United though, like can anyone recognize Almiron’s issue? What’s a counter-press? Is Barco better than he’s getting credit for by playing two positions? Are there problems even though the team is winning? In short, the team isn’t losing (except in the U.S. Open Cup), so why does something this year feel... off?
Perhaps there’s some nostalgia fed by warm feelings of days spent in the beating sunshine at Bobby Dodd-Stadium, but Atlanta this year doesn’t look quite the same as the team did in 2017. New signing Ezequiel Barco doesn’t quite have the same style as Yamil Asad. Greg Garza’s injury means that there isn’t a left back screaming down the sideline for quick interplays on the wing before Yamil sends a throughball slicing into the goal box for Josef to drive past a helpless keeper. Tito Villalba has been injured and seems to have also fallen out of favor with Tata.
Still the season is going incredibly well. The team is in first place and has a chance to win the Supporters’ Shield in their second season in the league. Atlanta is on track to score 68 goals this year and allow 40 - a near mirror image to the 70 goals scored and 40 allowed last season. Maybe things are just different and what we saw last year looked better at times than this season.
One big reason the team has looked a little different is Darlington Nagbe, and he’s injured. With Nagbe out of the squad there may be an interesting change in how Atlanta United adjusts its tactics. The old high flying, Peachtree Pressing team we saw last year may come back. Without a player like Nagbe to help keep possession more, Tata may revert back to the tactics that worked well last year and look to press teams and break like hell on the transition. With Orlando City thinking it can play an attacking 3-4-3, sitting back and trying to get in behind a hilariously ineffective Orlando three man backline on the counter might work really well and could be a lot of fun.
We’ll see what happens.