Cristian Higuita

Little Things from Week 29: Orlando's bunker, Higuita's strength, and Colorado missteps by Harrison Hamm

Sporting KC survived at home against Orlando on Saturday, winning 1-0 on a Felipe Gutierrez strike. They were missing three potential starters (Daniel Salloi and Diego Rubio on int’l duty, Ike Opara on yellow card suspension) and consistently lacked ideas in the final third. But Orlando didn’t generate anything, so SKC walked away with three points.

Under James O’Conner, OCSC have bunkered. Their defensive line is deep, the midfield is tight to the backline and they often sit 11 in the defensive half. At some point, they’ll have to figure out how to do more than that.

They struggled to possess the ball against Sporting, who are a notoriously difficult team to possess the ball against. That doesn’t make abomination this any better from Orlando:

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Lowered Expectations: Week 9 by Harrison Crow

Welcome to Lowered Expectations, the week nine edition! Each week, we go about posting chalkboards and GIFs of the weekend’s best open-play shot attempts that did not quite live up to expectations (and rarely do we update this paragraph). We look at each one and not only evaluate the results, but also the process that led to them.

#5 -  Mac Steeves, Houston Dynamo, 91st minute, 0.463 expected goals
Assisted by: Andrew Wenger
Passes in sequence: 2

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Orlando City largely exceeded the typical expectations of an expansion team in 2015. The Lions finished in seventh in the East, just five points out of a playoff spot. 33-year old Kaka looked stellar running the show from the midfield, adding seven assists to his nine goals. He finished 16th in expected goals plus expected assists, ahead of well-established playmakers like Lee Nguyen, and Javier Morales (guys who needed no adjustment time to get used to the league). First overall pick Cyle Larin scored 17 goals on 10.5 expected goals on his way to Rookie of the Year honors. Fans showed up in record droves for an expansion team. Overall, their first year in MLS should be certainly be regarded in a positive light.

In spite of these successes, the team did have their problems. Depth, notoriously, is an issue for teams entering the league, and OCSC was no exception. Promising winger Kevin Molino went down in early May with an ACL tear, to be replaced by a combination of cromulent Eric Avila, an out-of-position Darwin Ceren, and Adrian Winter, a Swiss summer signing who spent most of his season getting his MLS legs under him. Young designated player Bryan Rochez spent much of May, June, and July not quite match fit after coming back from the U-20 World Cup in New Zealand late due to visa issues. Brek Shea missed most of the middle of the season with a sports hernia. Ceren missed a few crucial September games with a knee injury. Midfielder Cristian Higuita missed multiple games due to yellow card accumulation. On top of the negative effects of having to give significant minutes to bench-level players- guys like Servando Carrasco, Pedro Ribeiro, and David Mateos- these injuries really hampered the squad's ability to develop consistency.

Slow starts are also frequently an issue for expansion teams, and the Lions experienced some of that, as well. Nine points in their first 10 games dug them into a hole, though they perhaps undeservedly lost some close matches in that span, including a particularly tough one to D.C. United in stoppage time. After the difficult start, the team began to right the ship, buoyed by three wins and two draws in their next five. The rest of the season featured a 1-7-2 stretch and a five game win streak. As should probably be expected for a team new to the league, there were ups and there were downs.

At their best, Orlando City frequently generated chances both from the middle and from out wide. The Kaka to Larin connection led to 3 of Larin's 17 goals, while Carlos Rivas to Larin resulted in 4. City's best wins - 5-2 over Columbus, 4-0 over the Galaxy, 5-2 at Red Bull Arena - featured a good mix of both. At their worst, both facets stalled, and they failed to hold possession and create high quality chances.

A look at the offseason changes and what lies ahead in 2016 after the jump.

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