It’s been two weeks since the book closed on Orlando City’s 2021 season in Nashville. With only MLS Cup yet to be decided, this year in Major League Soccer is all but finished. Given that context, I think it’s time for us to look back at the year that was for Orlando City.
Orlando’s regular season was a tale of two halves.
The Lions started the year among the league’s elites, starting on a six-game unbeaten run. At one point early in the year, Orlando was among the contenders for the Supporter’s Shield. By the end of July, Orlando sat with 28 points after 16 matches, about 1.75 points per game. Had Oscar Pareja’s team maintained that pace, Orlando would’ve easily settled into second in the Eastern conference.
But things fell off hard from that point on.
International absences, an injury crisis, and a rash of fixture congestion caused a massive backslide down the stretch of the season. Orlando dropped points against Eastern Conference cellar dwellers and had a four match losing streak towards the end of August. By the end of the regular season, Orlando needed a result on decision day just to make the playoffs.
Once the team got healthier, especially talismanic forward Daryl Dike, the Lions went on a bit of a run at the end of the season and heading into the playoffs, only to be dispatched by Nashville SC in a competitive match.
Leagues Cup brought Orlando City’s first ever opportunity on the international stage, and boy was it underwhelming.
Santos Laguna of Liga MX payed a visit to a struggling Orlando City for a midweek continental clash and made relative light work of the Lions with a 1-0 victory.
I wish I could say more than just three sentences for Orlando’s continental performance this season, but what else is there to say? There was a unique opportunity for this club, but it came at a brutal time and was quickly forgotten. Hopefully in 2023 the Lions will have another opportunity in international competition.