Let the Try-Outs for 2019 Begin!

The 2018 Orlando City Soccer season is over. Doc can cling to his delusions of a historic playoff run all he wants, but our “Soccer Sherpa” Simon has put the toe-tag on this year. In this week’s episode Simon breaks down what went wrong and what lies ahead for the Lions.

We were also joined by Lord Commander of the UCF Knight’s Watch, Charles, who gave us a rundown of what went into yet another amazing tifo from the Supporters and the process of how they are made.

You can listen to the full show here:

Simon’s “Ten Thinks” on Another Atlanta Atrocity

1) It was a lovely evening. The temperature was a balmy 82 degrees; humidity was relatively low (by Florida evening standards); the field was immaculate; the stadium was largely full. And then the game started, and it all went to hell.

2) If ever there was a 2-1 ‘thrashing,’ OCSC was thrashed 2-1 by ATL in their own stadium on Friday night. It looked close on paper, but the gulf between the two teams was miles wide in reality. The Lions were out-played, heavily, in almost every phase of the game.

3) The first half was actually relatively encouraging. The narrow, defensive lineup that James O’Connor sent out against ATL limited the best team in the league to a handful of clear chances (albeit one glaring miss from Martinez) and might have kept it clean but for Joe Bendik’s fumble.

4) New signing Carlos Ascues looked extremely solid alongside Uri Rosell as the 2 D-Mids, and is clearly one for the future, a skilful CB who can also play in front of the back four with power and vision.

5) Although OCSC was out-shot 9-4 in the first half, they had much the better of the final 15 minutes, denying ATL possession and creating their best moment of the night (month?) with a brilliant team goal, beautifully finished by Scott Sutter.

6) At 1-1 at the half, and with that period of ascendancy under their belts, we expected the team to come roaring out for the second period and really challenge the Supporters Shield leaders. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear…

7) What happened next was hard to understand and even harder to stomach. The Lions simply mailed it in. Ascues ran out of gas, the MF was over-run, and the team struggled to string two passes together. ATL queued up to take shots at Bendik (who saved nearly all of them, it should be said).

8) There were NINE clear chances for the visitors in 21 minutes before Martinez finally broke through in the 74th minute at the end of a typical OCSC transition breakdown. Ballgame. ATL shut up shop after that but always looked like they could score more if they felt like it.

9) The Lions managed ONE attempt on goal (a good header by Dwyer from a corner). In 45 minutes. With the game on the line & The Wall roaring them on. One. It was beyond miserable. They created precisely nothing and got what they deserved, which was exactly nothing.

10 a) Yes, the team was without Kljestan, Yotun and Higuita through injury/suspension, but the abject surrender in that 2nd half is something we haven’t seen before & is now the big worry for O’Connor.

10 b) There were still whole-hearted efforts from several notables, including Mueller, PC, Sutter, O’Neill and Spector, but it’s hard to credit how bad the collective performed, and that could be really difficult to overcome in the final 9 (dead) games of the season.

10 c) The team is rock bottom in the East and only woeful San Jose has fewer points in the league. In soccer speak, your league position is who you are. After four seasons in MLS, Orlando City is falling further and further behind and a MAJOR overhaul is necessary.

10 d) These last 9 games, starting with Philly on Sat, are an audition for the future, pure and simple. O’Connor needs to find out which players should be here next year, and who isn’t up to the job. With the obvious exceptions of Dom, Yoshi, Spector, Sutter, Rosell, Higuita, Ascues, Mueller and Kljestan, everyone else is playing for their place. And the clock is ticking…

Cheers,
Simon

Orlando City Had One of Its More Successful Weeks. Now It’s Time for Atlanta.

Doc is back from his top-secret assignment to host our latest episode! This week we preview Friday’s match versus Atlanta United, discuss why any male sports fan would want the stands free of women and get another lesson from our “Soccer Sherpa”, Simon!

You can listen to the full show here:

Orlando City Delays Execution of Season with Limp Draw Against Revolution

Orlando City had a chance to start a season turnaround with the Revolution coming to town. Two typical mistakes led to an early 0-2 deficit that left Lions fans on the verge of burying the season, when the team used the energy of the supporters to get back in the match, and then equalize again after a goal that would have crippled the same team two months ago.

Unfortunately, the positives of the draw are far outweighed by negatives that have been known for awhile and become more glaring by the match. Our “Soccer Sherpa” Simon and his wife Susan, authors of Defying Expectations: Phil Rawlins and the Orlando City Soccer Story, join us in-studio to recap the experience in Orlando City Stadium on Saturday, the long-term outlook for City and look ahead to the DC United match.

Speaking of the DC United Match, we will be watching the match at Ace Cafe in Downtown Orlando (where The Edge and 8 Seconds used to be on Livingston)!

Our listeners will get free on-site parking. That’s right…free parking downtown…just make sure you enjoy the food & drink specials they have for our audience. You will also have a chance to win a $50 Ace Cafe gift card. Plus, Doc will have a free pair of tickets to an Orlando City match! Come join us! We promise it will be a blast.

Listen to the full episode here:

Simon’s “Ten Thinks”: Revelations from the Revolution Match

I think it’s important to be realistic about the team’s chances for the final 11 games, as I heard quite a few thoughts on the radio after the game that they’re still firmly in the mix, but what I saw was not good, in any way, and I think we need to be brutally honest about where the team is right now.

With that said, here is this week’s 10 Thinks:

1) A last-minute draw with a playoff rival is good, right, especially after being 2-0 and 3-2 down? Wrong. Saturday was a must-win game for #OCSC, against a team ahead in the standings.

2) The Lions only have only FIVE home games left, all of them against genuine playoff contenders, and failing to get three points is a massive blow at this stage of the campaign.

3) Most fans in our section – 104 – of the South Stand were pretty gloomy, and rightfully so. Even though a late, late goal like Scott Sutter’s can usually feel like a ‘win,’ this one didn’t, and the fans’ mood reflected that.

4) But by far the worst aspect of Saturday’s game was not the result so much as the radically poor performance, which represented a massive step backwards after the hopeful signs of recent weeks.

5) Not only was #OCSC still porous at the back, the attacking spark we saw against LAFC and NYCFC was all but gone. Yes, the team scored 3 goals, but 2 of those were distinctly lucky & they really only created 2 genuine chances all game – against a NER team that looked equally poor.

6) It could be the midfield is just running out of legs right now. Both Kljestan & Yotun – the top MF creators – have played a LOT of soccer in the last 2 months and Sat night was a typically hot, energy-sapping Florida night.

7) We also lost Sacha to the worst tackle of the night, which was a massive indictment on (another) PRO referee who simply has no basic understanding of the game. NE fouled often & consistently, and they were allowed to get away with it.

8) But that still doesn’t excuse an #OCSC display that was disjointed, lacking vision, feeble in front of goal (out-shot 14-12), and seemed utterly unable to pass to a teammate at a time.

9) At times, this looked like a pre-season game when players are still getting to know each other, and the coaching scheme, and the number of giveaways – especially in our third of the field – was genuinely shocking. No player came out with any credit, with the possible exception of Amro Tarek.

10) Where does the team go from here? There remains a chink of light. None of the teams immediately above them won this weekend & they get bottom club DC United next. But they will have to win there, AND at home to ATL & PHI to stay alive.

11) So let’s make this Sunday’s Watch Party for the DC game, at the fab Ace Cafe in downtown, a good one. This isn’t so much The Last Chance Saloon as The Outhouse Behind the Saloon!

Cheers,
Simon

Zlatan Ibrahimović Is Really Good at Soccer. Orlando City? That Remains to Be Seen.

The week since our last episode was not kind to Orlando City. The 0-2 loss at home was painful to watch, and the 3-4 heartbreaker against the LA Galaxy had an all-too-familiar theme: play well enough to win, but find a way to lose, leaving a feeling of both desperation and hope that rivals food poisoning.

Not that there was any shame in losing to Zlatan Ibrahimović and the Galaxy. They are a fun team to watch, and the fact that City repeatedly took the lead, hung in there, did not collapse and seems to be playing with a much more effective style (see: attacks, counter) provides a glimmer of hope that is almost too painful to admit is there.

You can listen to the full show here:

Simon’s “Ten Thinks” from the Escape for LA

Another week, another 3 Orlando City defeats. But, if ever a team was completely out on its luck, it’s this one. So, let’s dig in….

1) The very bottom line (of quite a few!) is that OCSC has a problem in defense all the time Jonathan Spector is sidelined. The center back position at the moment is a hot mess, and one player shouldn’t make THAT much difference.

2) Giving up 9 goals in 3 games – only one of which was a false penalty – just isn’t the recipe for success. The center-backs were massively culpable against the Galaxy, and the Lions’ transition defense remains its major, glaring weakness.

3) But, if James O’Connor can fix that (albeit, it’s a big ‘if’ at the moment), this team is still alive, and it is definitely still playing with a lot of heart. They had the better of the game, overall, against NYCFC and, for 60 minutes, were much the better team in LA.

4) The first half against the Galaxy was the best we have seen from this team since the 6-1 rout of New England last September. In fact, it might be the best, period, as they ran LA ragged most of the time. They made one error at the back & got punished for it while they could (should?) have had more than 2.

5) This was a glimpse of what a JOC team could well look like – smart in possession, quick to break, and with enough players getting forward (the BIG problem in the Kreis era) to cause real problems.

6) They also did it, fitfully, against NYCFC, but didn’t add the cutting edge that they showed in LA. There, Kljestan absolutely ran the midfield, Higuita was everywhere, Rocha was rock-solid as the holding D-Mid, and Yotun kept making telling contributions.

7) Allowing the 6-foot-5 Zlatan to make it 2-2 just after half-time was the killer blow, though, and why 5-foot-8 PC was the one trying to defend him in that instance – and not our two 6-foot-3 center backs – will be one of the mysteries of the season.

8) Ultimately, OCSC went toe-to-toe with one of the Big Dogs of the league, on the road, at the end of a killer 12-day, 4-game spell, without key players, and came up just short. It was an agonizing, morale-sapping result that the team didn’t deserve. If they can focus on all the things they did right, it could be a turning point…

9) …but Saturday’s game at home to New England is now huge, a must-win game of epic proportions if this season is to retain any meaning. The Lions simply HAVE to show they can build on the successes of LA and beat a team who are eminently beatable. Anything less will be a step backward at a time when they can’t afford to give an inch.

10) And there, I didn’t mention how bad MLS/PRO officials are once!

Cheers,
Simon

The MLS Is a Joke. There Is No Other Way to Put It.

Orlando City got run from the U.S. Open Cup by Philadelphia last week and the Orlando Pride drew Seattle at home over the weekend. We try to talk about those things, but the Lions’ loss at Columbus dominated this week’s episode.

How much does the inept MLS officiating affect your enjoyment of Orlando City?

Listen to the full show here:

Simon’s “Ten Thinks” from The Robbery in Columbus

Actually, there is just ONE Think this week, but it breaks down into 10 parts:

1. The decision to award CLB a penalty on Sat. night was wrong. 100% categorically wrong. The CLB players had been appealing for PKs incessantly in the closing stages, and ref Silviu Petrescu finally buckled. That decision could easily cost Orlando their season as that 3pts, and the momentum from them, could be irreplaceable.

1b. On such a huge, game-defining decision, at 2-1 to OCSC in the closing stages, you would expect the ref to consult VAR and, at the very least, take a look on the video monitor for other angles on the call. He didn’t. Wrong again.

1c. But he also made the VAR signal in the air, twice. On the second time, according to the protocols assigned by FIFA, that is the signal he is going to look at it on the video monitor. He didn’t. Wrong for a third time.

1d. In the official statement about the incident, the ref would only say, “As the Columbus player was about to head the ball in the Orlando penalty area, the Orlando player charged him from behind. Therefore a penalty kick was called.”

1e. Let’s look at the phantom “charge.” RJ Allen and Patrick Mullins both jumped for the ball; RJ came slightly from behind Mullins but was shoulder-to-shoulder with him as they jumped. Mullins headed the ball, and fell. Backwards.

1f. How does a player get charged, supposedly, in the back and fall backwards? It defies the laws of physics! So, the referee’s statement about the incident is also (say it with me), wrong.

1g. There is no requirement for the officials to comment on the use of VAR. At all. This is also wrong. No other league in the world has that stipulation. The NBA even comes out and ADMITS when their officials blow a call. MLS? *crickets*

1h. This is the same ref, remember who red-carded New England’s Xavier Kouassi in Orlando last Sept. On video review. The red card was later rescinded when it was clear Kouassi had, actually, kicked the ball. In July 2016, Petrescu sent off CLB’s Harrison Afful for a tackle on Marcelo Sarvas of DCU. That card, too, was rescinded for the same reason. The player kicked the ball.

1i. Petrescu was also reportedly suspended by PRO in 2015 for missing a series of calls in the PHIvsCOL game, including failing to red card James Riley of COL for a bicycle-kick attempt that landed squarely in the back of Andrew Wenger. He also didn’t red-card CLB’s Mensah for kicking Tony Rocha in the back of the NECK on Sat, on an even worse bicycle-kick. Only last month, RSL head coach Mike Petke railed against the same ref for failing to protect his players.

1j. The league has an officiating problem. It’s that simple. Too many officials, both ref and VAR, aren’t up to the task, & teams are suffering from this arbitrary mess every week. Petrescu cannot be allowed to officiate another MLS game. His record of gaffes is there for all to see & the league must act to protect their product, or fans will simply turn away. Yes, it’s that bad.

Cheers,
Simon

Croatia Comes Close but No Cigar and Orlando City Is Off the Schnide!

It has been a long time since we have been able to talk about an Orlando City victory, and we revel in every second of it this week. Lord Commander of the UCF Knights’ Watch Charles joins Doc to recap the experience of being in the stadium for the 2-1 victory over the defending champs, as well as to look ahead to the US Open Cup match against Philly on Wednesday and the next MLS match in Columbus on Saturday.

We also get our “Soccer Sherpa” Simon’s opinion on the City match (see his “Ten Thinks” article below), but only after a through World Cup Final review. The match was a fitting end to an incredibly entertaining tournament.

If you are looking to watch the Columbus game with fellow Orlando City fans, come join Orlando Derby at Ace Cafe in Downtown Orlando (where The Edge and 8 Seconds used to be on Livingston) for another viewing party!

Our listeners will get free on-site parking. That’s right…free parking downtown…just make sure you enjoy the food & drink specials they have for our audience. You will also have a chance to win a $50 Ace Cafe gift card every hour. Plus, Doc will have a free pair of tickets to the next Orlando City home match! Come join us!  We promise it will be a blast.

Listen to the full show here: