Joe Bendik

Orlando City SC 2019 Season Preview by Ian L.

It was the worst of times. 2018 is a year that Orlando City fans could forget if it didn’t make up 25% of the team’s MLS existence. No, the dull scab of mediocrity that Orlando had become finally broke sometime in April of last year and the rest of the league was there to season aggressively with rock salt. Jason Kreis was dismissed, and while that was indeed understandable, James O’Connor’s task of righting a sinking ship has now unfortunately shifted into excavating a wreck. In a league that has had no shortage of underachievers in its youth and adolescence, Orlando’s 2018 was a special kind of dark comedy. They stepped on every conceivable rake, went out, purchased several new rakes at great expense, and then stepped on all of those as well.

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Orlando City SC 2018 Season Preview by ExiledMLS

Orlando City has rebuilt their roster with several blockbuster trades and signings this off-season. As they embark on their 4th MLS season, they finally look like a playoff-caliber team.

2017 in review

Orlando City came out of the gate guns blazing last March. The Lions started with a 7-1-0 record before things fell apart, and finished with a 10-15-9 record overall. Yes, that’s right. After starting the 2017 season with the strongest record in the league, Orlando City managed to secure just 3 more wins across the remaining 26 games. Curiously, their fall from grace apparently started in Week Eight, which is when former Ballon d’Or winner Kaka returned from injury and was re-inserted back into the lineup. It is both inaccurate and unfair to pin Orlando City’s poor 2017 season on him alone, because they had issues all over the field. But when a $7.1 million per year Designated Player can’t raise the level of a team, he is either past his prime or the team has far more problems besides him. For Orlando City in 2017, both were true.

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MLS Goalkeepers or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the BOB by Bill Reno

It seems like every week I see multiple goalkeepers launch a hopeful goal kick to a teammate close to the sideline, only to overhit it by about twenty yards. While fans may appreciate the invitation to be a part of the game, they’d rather not see their goalkeeper concede possession so easily. MLS goalkeeping standards aren’t the same as La Liga, but surely there is some standard, right?
I accessed the secret scrolls of passing statistics dating back to the 2015 season to see just how often MLS goalkeepers launch a ball straight out of bounds. For this exercise, we’ll be using the stat BOB, which stands for for “Ball Out of Bounds” because having a stat acronym with two O’s would jump ASA’s rating from G to PG and I couldn't bring myself to be the sole reason for that. We don't have the data to separate punts, throws, passes, and goal kicks but I think this still addresses the topic at hand. As such, the below BOB pulls in all 'keeper distribution, be it a goal kick launched towards midfield or a toss to a nearby teammate a foot away.
Over a total of 1587 BOB in 1622 games puts the average BOB/gm for a goalkeeper at .978.

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The Most Important Skills for MLS Goalkeepers and the rise of Joe Bendik by Bill Reno

We’re four weeks into the MLS season and have we learned anything about the goalkeeping crew yet? Tough to say. 2017 brings back some familiar faces while other teams are trying their luck by putting some youth in net. MLS is a tricky league for any rookie to hop into, but goalkeepers specifically need to have a few tools under their belt.

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Orlando City 2017 Season Preview by ExiledMLS

After failing to make the playoffs in their inaugural season, Orlando City began 2016 with Head Coach Adrian Heath already on the hot seat. An uninspiring 4-4-8 start to the season resulted in Heath’s dismissal on July 6 following a 4-0 shellacking at FC Dallas. Two weeks later, Orlando City hired former Real Salt Lake and NYCFC Head Coach Jason Kreis. While this gave some fans optimism that Orlando City could make a late-season push for the playoffs, it was not meant to be. The Lions finished the season 8th place in the East with 41 points, and were edged out of playoff contention by the Philadelphia Union and New England Revolution (each sitting on 42 points). 

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Do Keepers in MLS Have a Weaker Side? by Alex Rathke

In Week Two of the 2016 MLS season, I watched the Houston Dynamo beat FC Dallas 5-0 at BBVA Compass Stadium. After the match I saw the Shot on Target (SoT) statistics and noticed Houston had taken three shots on goal towards the lower right-hand side against Dallas’s keeper Jesse Gonzalez. Was Gonzalez weaker on his left side? Since I was a young boy playing soccer, I've heard numerous coaches talk about a goalkeepers’ “weaker side”. Is there something the coaches know about goalkeeper weaknesses that we analysts don’t? 

More after the jump.

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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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2015 in MLS Goalkeepers, and looking ahead to 2016 by Bill Reno

2015 was an up and down year for MLS goalkeeping. We had some surprise seasons from Stefan Frei, Tyler Deric, and David Ousted, all of which had question marks going into 2015 but clearly did work during the offseason to prepare themselves for the year. Now moving forward, each club’s fan base is excited for their goalkeeper and is probably calling them “one of the best in the league”. Jesse Gonzalez matched the young blood theme in Dallas and gave a great performance against Seattle that went into penalties. David Bingham earned praise for finally taking over the starting role in San Jose and Old Man Saunders led the league in saves with New York City. Even Brek Shea notched himself a great save for the season.

Tim Melia returned from the abyss to start for Sporting Kansas City and won perhaps the most ambiguous MLS award: Comeback Player of the Year. But most notably, Luis Robles won Goalkeeper of the Year after winning the Supporters’ Shield with New York Red Bulls. He was rewarded with a USMNT call up and hopes to add on to his single cap with the upcoming friendlies.

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