1) If anyone deserved to be celebrating an Orlando City win on Saturday night, it was the fans. What an incredible, whole-hearted and utterly non-stop bunch they are. Yes, it was good (vital) for the players & coaches, but the fans have earned it most. They never cease to amaze me.
2) The players definitely earned it, too. It was the most coherent performance we have seen since the June 6 US Open Cup win over Miami Utd, and easily the best league display since May 6 against RSL.
3) There was a good deal more purpose, poise and energy from every player on the field and, for 60 minutes, they hardly gave the reigning league champions a kick. The James O’Connor Effect is definitely in full swing.
4) Having Yoshi Yotun back and in harness with a different MF strategy was key to the performance. Tony Rocha brought a more calm. assured presence, and Sacha Kljestan saw more of the ball than he has in weeks, which is vital to the team’s offensive capacity.
5) A win’s a win, obviously, and the end of the nine-game skid was crucial for morale. But let’s not get carried away. TOR, in their current injury-riddled state, were woeful. They looked clueless for the first hour and hardly mustered a decent attack until late on.
6) The fact OCSC didn’t put them away convincingly – they really should have been 3-0 up by the 60min mark – is a worry as the Reds were there for the taking, and they came back into the game strongly in the last half-hour. Fortunately, their goal was so late that it didn’t allow any further defensive wobbles.
7) The team still needs Scott Sutter and Jonathan Spector back again to solidify the back-line and improve the distribution from the back, but Chris Schuler gave a more than adequate display, which was a good source of encouragement.
8) Possibly the biggest surprise was Will Johnson. As an emergency right-back during the losing skid he has looked a distinct liability, but on Saturday, back in that holding MF role, he brought all the intensity and energy that have been his hallmarks in the past. He looked good paired with Yoshi, and was still making solid tackles late in the game.
9) The big challenge now is to take another step forward, solidify what we saw on Sat and show that the team is learning under JOC. This is not going to be a straight-line process & there will be setbacks. The early signs are promising, but everyone – including the coaching staff & front office – will need to patient & realistic about what can be achieved this season.
10 a.) That’s because the schedule over the next few weeks is beyond brutal, and it will be an absolute miracle if they make any serious league progress. They face a run of 4 games in 12 days (3 on the road) starting with Wed’s USOC trip to Philly, then 2 Aug games against genuine contenders and a trip to revitalized DC United.
10 b.) That will complete a stretch of 12 road trips in 18 games in the space of 12 weeks, including LA twice, Vancouver and Montreal. No team is equipped to come out of that in great shape, hence any progress at all by the end of Aug will be against the odds, hence patience & realism are necessary.
10 c.) Whoever came up with that schedule has no sense of how athletes should be treated. It borders on cruel and unreasonable and must be re-visited in future so it never happens again. And 4 games in 12 days in the height of summer? Ridiculous.