Orlando City Needs to Create a Dominant Home Field Advantage
Orlando City lost three times early in the 2022 Major League Soccer season. All three losses came in the friendly confines of Exploria Stadium. It is one of the best soccer-specific stadiums in the United States and Orlando City's fans have brought it in the early weeks of the season. But that environment is not translating on the pitch.
The Lions have two wins and three losses on home soil this season, falling to longtime failures FC Cincinnati, league-leading LAFC and most recently the New York Red Bulls. The wins came against a pair of decent, if slightly underwhelming opponents in Montreal and Chicago.
In a league like MLS, home field can be really valuable. The travel requirements are unlike anything else in the world, with UEFA Champions League trips for just about every game in a season. Taking advantage of the home matches is a crucial way to stave off the wear and tear of long travel.
More than any competitive value, playing well in front of the home fans is huge for marketing reasons. It's no secret that Orlando hasn't had the same type of crowds it once did, and it's important to rebuild that attendance and hype for the club heading into a growth period for the league and a good period for the club on the field.
Winning home games and turning the home stadium to a fortress turns every home game into an event. It builds a culture of success and life into the home atmosphere. Players feed off of energy from the fans, but that works the same in reverse as well.
Building a proper home field advantage has to be one of Oscar Pareja's biggest goals for the rest of this season. Maybe it's just early season quirks, but if the Lions can't reliably take points at home and eventually dominate at home, then that's a huge missed opportunity.